Congressman John T. Salazar and a coalition of 61 House members introduced the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2010 Wednesday at a Capitol Hill press conference. Members called for swift action on the standalone bill.
The legislation would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries for the first time since 2004, a move that could save taxpayers $156 billion over ten years.
"This bill saves billions of dollars. It is common sense that we can save seniors and taxpayers money by putting the federal government's purchasing power to work. We can lower the deficit and medical costs at the same time and I hope we can get swift passage." Salazar said.
Taxpayers fund more than three-quarters of the cost of the Medicare Part D drug benefit, accounting for $50 billion worth of drugs in 2009 alone. Yet the program, which includes 28 million beneficiaries, has been barred from negotiating rates with the pharmaceutical industry since 2004. The 2009 Medicare Trustees Report estimates spending on prescription drugs will continue rising, reaching $140 billion in 2018 alone if nothing is done.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has reduced costs significantly by negotiating rates. One Families USA report found that the top five Medicare Part D insurers charged prices 58 percent higher than the VA for 20 commonly prescribed drugs.
In 2007 the House passed a bill similar to the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2010 by a vote of 255 to 170 with strong bipartisan support and 198 cosponsors. The measure gathered further momentum last November when it was included in the Affordable Health Care for America Act and passed by the House.
Sponsors of the bill include Reps. Welch, Emerson, Schakowsky, Salazar, Berry, Grijalva, Hinchey, Conyers, Charlie Wilson, Baldwin, Hodes, Titus, Taylor, Ellison, D. Moore, Schwartz, Lipinski, H. Johnson, McGovern, Olver, Langevin, Wu, Klein, Pingree, Kaptur, Harman, Loebsack, Wasserman-Schultz, Nadler, Hall, Oberstar, Braley, Hare, Heinrich, Capps, Stupak, Sutton, Shea-Porter, Cardoza, Arcuri, DeFazio, Tim Ryan, Carney, Van Hollen, Boswell, Doyle, Israel, Delahunt, Tim Bishop, DeLauro, McGovern, Michaud, Capuano, Chandler, E. Markey, Kildee, Filner, Carnahan, Weiner, McDermott, Yarmouth, Woolsey and Kagen.