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Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009 - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, today I would like to talk about health care costs. We began this endeavor to fix our broken health care system a year ago for two reasons: to move toward universal coverage, and to reduce the unacceptably high cost of health care that is threatening to ruin our country.

It is vital that in our quest to cut costs, we do not leave money on the table that could be going back into the pockets of the American people. This process is not over and while we still have time, we need to more strongly address the rising costs of prescription drugs. The cost of brand-name drugs rose nine percent last year. That is an unprecedented, unacceptable hike. In contrast, the cost of generic drugs fell by nearly nine percent over the same time period.

For years, we have tried to make it easier for Americans to have access to affordable drugs. We have worked to ease the backlog of generic drug applications at the FDA. We support comparative effectiveness studies and academic detailing to diminish the influence of brand-name drug manufacturers. And we must continue to break down the barriers to help generic drug companies get their products on the market.

Therefore it is imperative that we pass legislation to fight the backroom deals between brand name drug companies and generic drug companies that keep generics off the market and out of reach for consumers. The Kohl-Grassley amendment to stop what we call these ``reverse payments'' is based on a bill that was passed with bipartisan support by the Judiciary Committee last month, and I thank Senator Grassley for working together with me on it.

Let me be clear about what these deals are: brandname drug companies pay generic drug companies--their competition to not sell their products. The brandname drug companies win because they get rid of the competition. Generic drug companies win because they get paid without having to manufacture a product. And consumers lose because they have been robbed of a competitive marketplace.

How much do American consumers lose in these backroom deals? Thirty-five billion dollars over 10 years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And the Congressional Budget Office estimates these anticompetitive deals cost the Federal Government nearly $2 billion on top of that, because we end up paying more for branded drugs through Medicare and Medicaid. We cannot afford to leave this money on the table, and our bill--which we hope will be included in the final health reform legislation--will make sure we do not.

We are pleased that the current bill includes a provision that Senator Grassley and I hope will slow the rising cost of drugs and medical devices. Our policy aims to make transparent the influence that industry gifts and payments to doctors may have on medical care. As we look to reform the health system, it is imperative that every dollar is spent wisely.

In closing, I urge my colleagues to support my amendment to end these collusive drug company settlements and to find additional ways to reduce the cost of this bill. This proposal would save billions of dollars and reduce consumer costs by billions more. This is what we said we would do, and this is what we must do.


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