State of the Union: Want More Affordable Prescription Drugs? Start with Medicare.

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While the President’s State of the Union Address was short on substance concerning health care, he did mention a desire to work with Congress to “lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs.” While the President focused on “global freeloading” there is one common sense solution that would make drugs more affordable for individuals, and save taxpayers and Medicare billions of dollars: Allow Medicare to negotiate the price of Prescription Drugs.

Other plans, such as the President’s plan to “inject more competition into the market” and switch coverage of some expensive drugs from Medicare Part B Medicare to Part D could actually significantly increase out-of-pocket costs for some of the sickest people in Medicare.

To truly lower drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries, the Medicare program, and taxpayers, the administration should negotiate prices overall, not one plan at a time. As every big box company knows, that’s how to drive down costs. Health economists and Medicare beneficiary advocates have called for overall negotiations since Part D was passed in 2003. The President even claimed he would do so during his campaign. At best, other approaches whittle away at the edges of the cost problem. It’s high time to negotiate drug prices on behalf of all 60 million Medicare beneficiaries.

It’s as simple as removing one word – “not” – from the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act.  Then, rather than wastefully forbidding negotiations, the Act would encourage the government to use its massive purchasing power to negotiate prices overall, ensuring that Medicare and those who rely on it are really getting the best possible deals.

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