WASHINGTON, DC – At the start of the new Congress, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, Jeanne Shaheen, Tammy Baldwin, Angus King, Sherrod Brown, Patrick Leahy, and Al Franken today introduced legislation to lower prescription drug prices for seniors. The lawmakers have introduced the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, which would allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and bans Medicare from doing so. The legislation would help cut costs for nearly 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D and boost Medicare savings. Kaine co-sponsored earlier versions of this legislation in June 2013 and January 2015, and earlier this year sent a letter urging the incoming Trump administration to work with Congress to lower prescription drug prices.
“No one should have to choose between paying for a prescription drug that they need and necessities like food and shelter,” Kaine said. “This bill seeks to bring down skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs by letting Medicare directly negotiate for the best price, like Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs currently do. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this important bill because our seniors should be able to afford the prescription drugs they depend on.”
“AARP has long-supported allowing the Secretary of HHS to use the bargaining power of Medicare’s millions of beneficiaries to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer. “AARP’s most recent Rx Price Watch report found that the retail prices of brand name drugs widely used by older Americans rose by an average of over 15 percent in 2015. Seniors and taxpayers cannot continue to absorb the impact of high and growing prescription drug prices.”
“As a physician, I see first-hand the impact of rising prescription drug costs on patients who may forego treatment because they can no longer afford their medications,” said Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, FACP, President of the American College of Physicians, and a practicing internal medicine physician, on behalf of ACP’s 148,000 members. “We urge the Senate to approve this legislation to increase patient access to these lifesaving medications."
The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for the best possible prices. The government can harness the bargaining power of nearly 41 million seniors to negotiate bigger discounts than insurance companies.