Dear Mr. ------:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the ability of the federal government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.
As you know, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) established a Medicare prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D), which began in 2006. One provision of MMA expressly forbids the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) from negotiating the price of prescription drugs on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Instead, private prescription drug plans, or the buyers they employ, negotiate prices with drug manufacturers.
The fact that MMA actually prohibits the federal government from negotiating lower drug prices is one of the reasons why I opposed the prescription drug bill and why I have consistently worked on legislation to address the numerous structural problems with the legislation. Allowing the government to negotiate drug prices could potentially result in lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. By using the market power of over 43 million Medicare beneficiaries, the federal government could secure deep discounts in prescription drug prices. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has used its negotiating power to secure drug discounts of 25 to nearly 50 percent. A study by Families USA found that drug prices charged by Medicare Part D private drug plans are 46 percent higher than drug prices paid by the VA. There is no reason why Medicare beneficiaries should not receive the price discounts enjoyed by America's veterans.
In January, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007, as part of their 100 hours agenda. Among other provisions, the House bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. The Senate took up a similar bill, S. 3, on April 18. The Senate bill would allow, but not require, the Secretary to negotiate for lower drug prices. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Senate Republicans opposed the bill, and it did not gain the required sixty votes to close debate and move to consideration.
Please know that I remain dedicated to enacting long-term solutions to several problems with the Medicare prescription drug law. The plan must be simplified, the coverage gap needs to be eliminated, states should be allowed to provide additional wraparound coverage to beneficiaries, and beneficiaries should be able to switch plans during the benefit year if their current plan does not fit their needs. I will continue to fight to protect our most vulnerable, because we must fulfill our obligation to seniors and disabled individuals.
Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact my office again if I can be of assistance.
Is Senator Cantwell just too busy or too damned important to answer emails or what? Here in Washington state we have two Democratic Senators. Cantwell is the super pro-business one...made her money from RealPlayer. Murray ran as the "tennis shoe mom", and is the best most conciencous Senator one could ask for.