MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICE NEGOTIATION ACT OF 2007 -- (Extensions of Remarks - January 18, 2007)
* Mr. ROTHMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007, because we owe our seniors a drug benefit program that is accessible and affordable. I believe that this legislation brings us one step closer.
* My fellow Democrats and I were outraged that the current Medicare Part D drug benefit forces many elderly beneficiaries to choose between their medication and basic needs, such as food and utilities. The health concerns of our elderly Medicare beneficiaries are urgent, and I am proud that we have now passed legislation that will arm the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services with an additional tool to address these needs.
* The intent of H.R. 4 is to open a path of negotiation of drug prices to remove the burden of affordability from the shoulders of our elderly. This bill should neither tie the hands of private drug plans, nor create unnecessary hurdles for the pharmaceutical companies that develop life-saving medicine. Rather, the intent is to give the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services the needed authority to effectively and efficiently offer affordable prices to seniors.
* We need Medicare Part D to be a benefit, and not a burden, to our friends and neighbors who use it. The fact that these individuals could get prescription drugs cheaper through Canada, Drugstore.com, or Costco is not only a disservice to Americans who trust Medicare for the healthcare they need-it is not good public policy. Every year, premiums and drug prices rise, and seniors are forced to bear more and more of the cost of their healthcare.
* However, we cannot let this bill and its provisions become the tool that kills the goose that lays the golden eggs. The United States is the international leader of pharmaceutical and medical innovation. Every year, we achieve numerous historical breakthroughs in medicine and treatment that improve the quality of life of millions of Americans, due to the research and dedication of our pharmaceutical companies and their tens of thousands of employees. It is because of American innovation that an HIV/AIDS or cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence; that an athlete and an amputee can be the same person; and that a child with asthma does not have to stay in after school.
* Research and development are costly. Inherent in each pursuit is a great amount of risk. On average, only one out of every 10,000 possible medications successfully makes it through development and Food and Drug Administration approval. It can take more than 15 years and $800 million to develop just one drug. Congress should not allow any public policy to move forward that would indirectly hinder innovation or advances in medicine. As we make needed improvements in the Medicare Part D plan, we must ensure that scientific advances continue. Therefore, we must balance our encouragement of competition and innovation in the private market with public health.
* I believe that with H.R. 4 we are one step closer to answering the needs of our elderly. We have a real chance to provide a more accessible, affordable, and effective drug benefit to our seniors. Americans are living longer, healthier lives than ever before, and it is our duty to ensure that this trend continues.