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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, last week TIME Magazine published an extensive piece that took a close look at the hidden costs within our health care system and how the Medicare program, which is widely disparaged these days, is effective in controlling costs.

We as a nation will spend $2.8 trillion this year on health care. That is on average 27 percent more than what is spent per capita in other developed countries.

According to the TIME article, many hospitals routinely overcharge patients and reap profits at the expense of American families. As one former hospital billing officer put it, ``hospitals all know the bills are fiction.''

Too many families are put on the path to financial ruin because of hospital bills.

Another thing the TIME piece highlighted was that Medicare is much more effective at controlling costs than private sector providers, whether non-profit or for-profit.

Because Medicare sets the prices it is willing to pay providers in advance, patients with Medicare coverage are charged substantially less than patients with private health insurance who have received the same services.

In fact, projected Medicare spending over the 2011-2020 period is more than $500 billion lower since late 2010 than CBO projected.

But we can do more. Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. In 11 years, Medicare's hospital insurance fund will start paying out more in benefits than it takes in.

Meaningful reforms that lead to better health care at lower costs are good for America's seniors--and for our entire health care system. And that should start with changes to Part D.

Today, I am introducing with Senators Whitehouse and Jack Reed the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act.

Our bill would save taxpayer dollars by giving Medicare beneficiaries the choice to participate in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan run by Medicare, not private insurance companies.

Seniors want the ability to choose a Medicare-administered drug plan, so let's give them this option.

In 2010, Americans spent approximately $260 billion on prescription drugs. That figure is projected to double over the next decade. However, patients in the United States spend 50 percent more than other developed countries for the same drugs.

The average monthly price of cancer drugs has doubled over the past 10 years, from about $5,000 to more than $10,000.

Of the 12 new cancer drugs approved by the FDA last year, 11 were priced above $100,000 a year.

About 77 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in persons 55 years of age and older.

As these people enter the program, Medicare should be allowed to control how much it pays for these prescription drugs.

While the Affordable Care Act does a lot to control costs in the private insurance market, current law handcuffs Medicare beneficiaries from obtaining competitive prices for their prescription drugs.

For all other Medicare programs, beneficiaries can choose whether to receive benefits directly through Medicare or through a private insurance plan.

The overwhelming majority of seniors choose the Medicare-run option for their hospital and physician coverage.

Our bill requires the Secretary of HHS to develop at least one nationwide prescription drug plan.

Why? Because we should take advantage of the Federal Government's purchasing power.

The Veterans Administration uses this type of negotiating authority and has cut drug prices by as much as 50 percent for our Nation's veterans.

Savings from negotiating on behalf of seniors in Medicare could be used to further reduce costs in the program and ensure the program is there for future generations.

America's health care system is burdening families and hindering our ability to invest in the future.

The Affordable Care Act takes important steps to begin bringing down costs in the private market and in Medicare, but there is more we can do. This proposal is a simple and common sense option that should be available for seniors.

Allowing Medicare to manage a prescription drug plan and negotiate prices, taxpayers will save money and seniors will get high quality drug coverage.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill and letters of support be printed in the RECORD.


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