Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) today introduced legislation to require the federal government to leverage its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower Medicare drug prices for seniors.
Current law prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from negotiating directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower Medicare drug prices. As a result, Medicare pays, on average, 73 percent more than Medicaid and 80 percent more than the Veterans Administration (VA) for brand-name drugs. If Medicare paid the same price for drugs as Medicaid and the VA, the federal government could save between $15.2 billion and $16 billion a year.
Separately today, Rep. Welch and Rep. Cummings sent a letter to President Trump expressing their "profound disappointment" that he has failed to follow through on his commitment to work with them to write and pass Medicare drug price negotiation legislation. During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump expressed strong support for Medicare price negotiation. In an Oval Office meeting on March 8, Welch and Cummings solicited input and support from the President for their bill. The letter sent by the pair today follows two previous unanswered letters on April 20, 2017 and June 21, 2017.
"Why is it that today Americans are walking into pharmacies and finding that the price of their medicine has doubled or tripled for no particular reason? The answer is that the drug companies can get away with it," Sanders said. "At a time when we spend many billions of dollars on medicine, it is time for Medicare to be able to sit down with the drug companies and negotiate prices."
"It simply makes no sense that Medicare is prohibited by law from using its immense purchasing power to get a better deal from drug companies for seniors. Paying retail prices for wholesale purchases is absurd. It's long past time we put an end this sweetheart deal for big Pharma," Welch said.
This bill is cosponsored in the House by Reps. Pocan, Higgins, Ellison, Schakowsky, Kaptur, Norton, Jayapal, Cohen, Gabbard, Grijalva, Nadler, Raskin, and DeLauro and in the Senate by Senators Leahy, Reed, Gillibrand, Harris, and Franken.
This bill is endorsed by the Alliance for Retired Americans, American Federation of Teachers, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, CREDO, Doctors for America, the Economic Policy Institute Policy Center, Families USA, Knowledge Ecology International, Medicare Rights Center, MoveOn, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Patients for Affordable Drugs, Prescription Justice, Public Citizen, Social Security Works, and The Senior Citizens League.