Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow for Medicare to negotiate best possible price of prescription drugs; Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and bans Medicare from doing so
Legislation would help cut costs for nearly 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D and boost Medicare savings
WASHINGTON, D.C. – At the start of the new Congress, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today introduced legislation to lower prescription drug prices for seniors. The lawmakers have introduced the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, which would allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and bans Medicare from doing so. The legislation would help cut costs for nearly 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D and boost Medicare savings. Senator Baldwin has supported similar legislation in the previous Congress, introduced by Senator Klobuchar.
“We have a broken system in Washington that prohibits the federal government from negotiating lower prescription drug prices for our senior citizens. This commonsense reform will fix this and help lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors,” said Senator Baldwin. “I have long championed efforts to allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to get better prices on lifesaving medicines instead of increasing drug company profits. The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act is a critical proposal that would help safeguard the Medicare program and keep our promises to seniors and taxpayers.”
“America’s seniors deserve a better bargain on prescription drug prices,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This legislation would harness the bargaining power of nearly 41 million seniors and allow Medicare to directly negotiate lower drug prices. Our seniors need access to the prescription drugs they rely on at the lowest possible price.”
“Banning better drug bargains makes no sense – and must be stopped so we can save seniors and taxpayers billions of dollars,” said Senator Blumenthal. “As prescription drug prices spiral upward, the ban on Medicare drug negotiations simply adds to the crushing burden of rising health care costs. We must end the Medicare straightjacket and enable the program to negotiate lower prices.”
“Seniors in New Hampshire and across the nation are being squeezed by the high cost of medications, and it’s time that Congress stand with them,” said Senator Shaheen. “There is no reason that seniors on Medicare should pay more for prescription drugs than their counterparts with private insurance. This is commonsense piece of legislation that will benefit millions of seniors in New Hampshire and around the country, and ensure they can afford the prescription drugs they need.”
“It just doesn’t make any sense that Maine seniors – many of whom live on a limited, fixed income – are forced to pay higher prices for medication because the government won’t allow itself to negotiate a better deal,” said Senator King. “Instead, we need to give Medicare the power to go to bat for seniors – not tie their hands – and finally doing so would result in more affordable prescriptions for seniors and billions of dollars in savings for the American taxpayer. That seems like a win-win everyone should be able to agree on.”
“Negotiating better prices for Ohio seniors is a win for everyone because it will save taxpayer dollars and bring down drug costs for everyone,” said Senator Brown.
“Soaring drug prices still put necessary medications out of reach for many, and especially seniors. Using Medicare’s buying power to lower costs is something we tried to include in ACA from the start, but the drug industry blocked it,” said Senator Leahy. “It’s high time to allow Medicare to negotiate a fair cost for prescriptions based on the true needs of Americans.”
“No American should have to choose between paying their bills, buying groceries, or taking their medications,” said Senator Franken. “But disturbingly, that’s exactly what’s happening to seniors in Minnesota and across the country. Senator Klobuchar and I have long led the fight to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices with prescription drug companies, a cost-cutting measure that would allow millions of our seniors—many who live on a fixed income—to pay less for their medications. We need to pass this bill.”
“No one should have to choose between paying for a prescription drug that they need and necessities like food and shelter,” said Senator Kaine. “This bill seeks to bring down skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs by letting Medicare directly negotiate for the best price, like Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs currently do. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this important bill because our seniors should be able to afford the prescription drugs they depend on.”
“AARP has long-supported allowing the Secretary of HHS to use the bargaining power of Medicare’s millions of beneficiaries to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer. “AARP’s most recent Rx Price Watch report found that the retail prices of brand name drugs widely used by older Americans rose by an average of over 15 percent in 2015. Seniors and taxpayers cannot continue to absorb the impact of high and growing prescription drug prices.”
“As a physician, I see first-hand the impact of rising prescription drug costs on patients who may forego treatment because they can no longer afford their medications,” said Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, FACP, President of the American College of Physicians, and a practicing internal medicine physician, on behalf of ACP’s 148,000 members. “We urge the Senate to approve this legislation to increase patient access to these lifesaving medications.”
The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for the best possible prices. The government can harness the bargaining power of nearly 41 million seniors to negotiate bigger discounts than insurance companies.