STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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By Ms. STABENOW (for herself, Mr. CARPER, Mr. KENNEDY, Mr. SCHUMER, Mr. BINGAMAN, and Mr. JOHNSON):
S. 445. A resolution to amend part D of title XVIII of the Social Security Act, as added by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, to provide for negotiation of fair prices for Medicare prescription drugs; to the Committee on Finance.
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, today I am introducing the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act of 2005, and am pleased to be joined by my colleagues, Senators CARPER, KENNEDY, SCHUMER, BINGAMAN, and JOHNSON.
This legislation is very simple and very straightforward: it would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers on behalf of our seniors and the disabled to get the lowest possible prices.
Last week we learned that the Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than 1 trillion dollars--$1.2 trillion to be exact--just for the years 2006 through 2015.
Some of our colleagues are responding to the news of the $1.2 trillion price tag with plans to reduce the benefit. But the benefit as currently structured is far from comprehensive. Seniors are responsible for $420 in premiums, and a $250 deductible before they get one penny's worth of help towards the cost of their prescription drugs. Once the benefit kicks in, they will face a hefty copayment, and many will fall into the infamous ``hole'' in the benefit and--at the same time they continue to pay premiums--not get any assistance at all.
Even with a $1.2 trillion pricetag, our seniors will have to shoulder two-thirds of the cost of their prescription drugs. Neither the seniors and disabled, nor the taxpayers, should be paying so much for so little.
Last week's news of the cost of the benefit makes it clear that we must give Medicare the ability to use the market power of 41 million people to secure the lowest prices possible for seniors, the disabled, and the American taxpayer.
Our response to the new cost estimate shouldn't be to reduce the already meager benefit but to use our dollars more efficiently. The change that my colleagues and I are seeking would allow us to improve the drug benefit--by lowering the cost of the drugs, we could fill in the gaps in coverage and provide a more meaningful benefit.
Former HHS Secretary Thompson said at his December 3rd resignation press conference that he would have liked to have had the opportunity to negotiate lower drug prices.
I expect Secretary Thompson knows what every smart buyer knows: the more you are buying of anything, the better deal you get. We all know that Sam's Club gets the best prices on breakfast cereal, batteries, and paper towels because they represent a huge market.
And now that Secretary Leavitt is tasked with running the program, we should give him as many tools as possible to run this program at the lowest possible cost.
Today the only entity in this country that cannot bargain for lower group prices is Medicare. The States, Fortune 500 companies, large pharmacy chains, and the Veterans' Administration use their bargaining clout to obtain lower drug prices for the patients they represent.
Medicare should have that same ability. It doesn't make any sense to prohibit the Secretary from using the clout of our 41 million seniors to help get them the best possible prices on prescription drugs.
I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this commonsense approach to providing real savings for our seniors and the disabled, and ensuring the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows: