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With House Set to Again Debate Ryan Medicare Plan, Welch Introduces Bill to Save Medicare $156 Billion

Location: Washington, DC

With Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) doubling down on his failed Medicare proposal from the last Congress, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) today introduced legislation that will save $156 billion in the Medicare program without cutting benefits to seniors.

Welch's Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries, a move that would significantly lower the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and save up to $156 billion over ten years.

"Chairman Ryan's Medicare proposal is yesterday's news that was rejected by the voters in November. It's time to move past this tired debate," Welch said. "Instead of cutting benefits for seniors and future seniors, let's do something practical that will save taxpayers money without dismantling the Medicare program. It's just plain common sense that the federal government should put its enormous purchasing power to work to get a better deal on Medicare prescription drugs. It's time to repeal Tom Delay's sweetheart deal with the pharmaceutical industry."

Taxpayers fund more than three-quarters of the cost of the Medicare Part D drug benefit, accounting for $62 billion worth of drugs in 2010 alone. Yet managers of the program, which serves 28 million seniors, have been barred by Congress from negotiating rates with the pharmaceutical industry since 2004.

Negotiating prescription drug prices is producing significant savings in the Department of Veterans Affairs. A Families USA report found that the top five Medicare Part D insurers charged prices 58 percent higher than the Veterans Administration for 20 commonly prescribed drugs.

During the debate over health care reform in 2010, Welch successfully amended the House health care reform bill to include idential legislation requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate the price of prescription drugs in the Medicare program. The provision was stripped from the final bill.

Welch's bill is cosponsored by Reps. DeFazio (D-Ore.) Castor (D-Fla.), Conyers (D-Mich.), Ellison (D-Minn.), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Moore (D-Wis.), Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Michaud (D-Maine), Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Cicilline (D-R.I.).

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