Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) today toured Hi-School Pharmacy in Scappoose to discuss her support for a reform that would cut as much as $156 billion from the deficit over the next ten years and save seniors up to $27 billion through reduced drug prices over the same time period. The change would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. The program, which serves 28 million seniors, has been barred from negotiating rates with the pharmaceutical industry since 2004.
"If we lift the ban on allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, we would cut our deficit by as much as $156 billion over 10 years," said Bonamici. "This simple reform would also cut costs for seniors, and help us to avoid cuts in other places like education. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been negotiating prices for years and it's saved taxpayers billions of dollars."
Price negotiation has a history of saving money. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reduced costs significantly by negotiating rates. One Families USA report found that the top five Medicare Part D insurers charged prices 58 percent higher than the VA for 20 commonly prescribed drugs.
Bonamici also highlighted her support for a reform that would allow small community pharmacies to remain competitive against larger pharmacies in Medicare Part D's new preferred pharmacy networks. Most preferred network plans do not allow independently owned pharmacies to participate. The policy has the unintended effect of forcing seniors to travel great distances to access lower co-pays at preferred pharmacies. Bonamici says Medicare should develop a plan to alleviate this problem.
"It's getting harder and harder for community pharmacies to compete against the larger chains," Jack Holt, owner of Hi-School Pharmacy, said. "We're often excluded from Medicare's preferred pharmacy networks, and that's forcing many of our longtime customers to travel longer distances to access lower prices. We've always been a strong, affordable option for seniors and we would like to keep it that way. We just want a level playing field so that we can continue to be the face of neighborhood healthcare."