Michaud Votes to Require Medicare to Negotiate with Drug Companies for Lower Drug Prices
Today, Congressman Mike Michaud voted for H.R. 4, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act. This bipartisan bill, of which Michaud is a strong supporter and cosponsor, would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of those who are enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans. The current Medicare prescription drug law explicitly prohibits HHS from using the strength of Medicare's 43 million beneficiaries to negotiate prescription drug price discounts.
"When the Medicare drug plan was being assembled, the pharmaceutical lobby convinced its authors to write a rule into the law that forbids ever negotiating for lower cost prescriptions in Medicare," said Michaud. "That was a blatant, multibillion dollar giveaway to big drug companies. These drug companies charge American consumers far more than anyone else in the world."
The bill that passed today provides Medicare broad discretion on how to best implement the negotiating authority and achieve price discounts for Medicare beneficiaries.
"This is a common sense measure that could result in serious cost savings for seniors and the government," said Michaud. "The Veterans Administration already uses their bargaining clout to obtain lower drug prices for the patients they represent. So do states, every other industrialized country in the world, Fortune 500 companies, and large pharmacy chains. HHS should have the same ability for Medicare beneficiaries - it's long overdue."
Michaud has long been supportive of prescription drug price negotiation. As one of his first acts in Congress, Michaud introduced the America Rx bill, which would allow the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for all Americans who lack adequate coverage, regardless of income. It was based on the innovative approach that was taken at the state level in Maine.
In addition, Congressman Michaud and Senator Snowe joined together to approach the pharmaceutical companies to find a way to help people in Maine get access to cheaper prescription drugs. Working together, they created the Rx Cares for ME Program. This program pulls together the many existing patient assistance programs that provide low cost or free medicines to qualified individuals. Applying to the hundreds of existing programs had previously been a confusing and difficult process, one that prevented most consumers from finding a discount that worked for them. Rx Cares for ME helped solve these problems. It includes a website (www.RxCaresForME.org) and toll free number (1-888-477-2669) specifically designed to give Mainers a single, central point of access for patient assistance programs.