The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill that would allow the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies in order to lower drugs costs for Medicare patients. Democrats were joined by some two dozen Republicans to pass the legislation by a vote of 255 to 170. "It is simply common sense to negotiate for lower prices," said Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI), who co-sponsored the bill… (photo)
"It will require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the bargaining power of 43 million Medicare beneficiaries to secure lower prices for America’s seniors," he said.
The Medicare prescription drug plan that was passed by the Republican Congress in 2003 explicitly prohibited the Department of Health and Human Services from negotiating lower drug prices.
A recent study by the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group Families USA found that the Veterans’ Administration (VA), which does negotiate with drug companies, provides lower prices for its beneficiaries than the Medicare Part D program. The lowest drug price charged by the largest Medicare drug plans was at least 58 percent higher than the prices under the system used by the VA.
The legislation also includes provisions requiring transparency in the negotiating process. Specifically, every six months, the bill requires the Health and Human Services Secretary to submit to various Congressional Committees a report on the negotiations conducted by the secretary, on drug prices and any price discounts achieved by the secretary as a result of negotiations.
Americans overwhelmingly support having the federal government negotiate for lower prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare. Groups including the AARP, the Community Pharmacists Association, the Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, The Consumer’s Union, the American Medical Association, the American Nursing Association, and the AFL-CIO also support the bill.
President Bush has promised a veto on the bill.