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Des Moines Register - Obama Criticizes Prescription Costs

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Location: Story City, IA

Des Moines Register - Obama Criticizes Prescription Costs

By Jason Clayworth

Barack Obama took another swinging punch at inadequate health care coverage here Saturday, showing a plan he said would save Americans as much as $283 billion on prescription drugs costs.

The savings, gained over a 10-year period, would be accomplished by giving Medicare power to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies, the Democratic presidential candidate said.

He showed a report put together by his campaign staff that outlined excessive drug costs paid by Medicare. Some, such as the breathing medication Advair, cost 77 percent more here than in Canada.

"It's wrong that American citizens should have to pay more for prescription drugs because drug companies are spending billions of dollars lobbying for it, Obama said to a group of about 30 residents of Bethany Manor, an assisted-living center in Story City.

The report compares the Medicare Part D prices of the 10 top-selling prescription drugs to prices at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Canadian pharmacies and an online drug retailer.

The savings were calculated by comparing the costs of drugs paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which uses negotiating power to lower costs, Canadian pharmacies as well as an online drug retailer.

According to Obama's report, drugs for Iowa seniors on Medicare cost 71 percent more than those for VA patients and 47 percent more than those who buy drugs at Canadian pharmacies.

The legislation that created the Medicare Part D program that was debated in 2003 failed to grant Medicare the proper negotiating tools, said Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois. He blamed the problem largely on lobbying by pharmaceutical companies.

The idea of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug costs and allowing prescription drug importation has been suggested by elected officials and some health professions, but it has met resistance.

In addition to Story City, Obama made stops Saturday in Fort Dodge, Webster City and at a farm near Boone.

Obama told a group of about 250 participants at the Iowa United Church of Christ's state conference in Fort Dodge that religious faith has a place in politics, which is similar to statements he has made previously while campaigning.

"Somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started to be used to drive us apart," he said. "It got hijacked."

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