Battle brews on Medicare drug prices

first_imgThe drug program is in its first year. An open enrollment period will begin Wednesday. Beneficiaries can pick a new plan during that time. If they prefer to stay with their current coverage, they don’t have to do anything. Besides negotiating drug prices, some Democrats also will urge the government to run a drug program that would compete with plans provided by the insurers. Democrats have predicted seniors would flock to the government-run plan. Leavitt disagreed. He said the government could not develop a plan that would satisfy the needs of a broad range of consumers. “Had we had one plan run by the government, with the government making a choice about which drug would be on the formulary and which one wouldn’t, you’d have 90 percent of the people who would be unhappy,” Leavitt said. “We now have 80 percent who are happy.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – The nation’s top health official said Monday the government shouldn’t negotiate Medicare drug prices, setting the stage for early confrontation with the new Democratic Congress. Currently, about 22.5 million seniors and the disabled are enrolled in private insurance plans subsidized by the federal government. The insurers and not the government negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over how much they’ll pay for drugs covered by their plans. But Democratic lawmakers have promised a new approach when they take control of Congress in January. They would let the federal government use its massive purchasing power to negotiate the price of drugs used by Medicare beneficiaries. They say such leverage would produce substantial savings that could then be used to improve the overall program. “The idea of the government negotiating drug prices really isn’t about the government negotiating drug prices,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a meeting with reporters. “It’s a surrogate for a much larger issue, which is really government-run health care.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’While there is much talk from lawmakers about working together, the debate over negotiating drug prices will quickly put those words to a test. During the campaign, Democrats said a ban on drug-price negotiations is proof that Republicans side with the insurance industry and global drug manufacturers over seniors. Leavitt said Democrats should focus their efforts next year on issues where there is broad agreement, such as expanding basic health insurance coverage. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., likely to be the next speaker of the House, has said she would quickly push for the government to negotiate lower drug prices. “Requiring the federal government to negotiate on behalf of seniors would generate significant savings, savings which could be used to close the gap in coverage – or `doughnut hole’ – that threatens millions of Medicare beneficiaries this year,” Pelosi said. Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said, “We want to work with Republicans on health care, as well as other issues, but misleading rhetoric about `government-run health care’ does not help. … Democrats are proposing common-sense improvements to the complex Bush prescription drug program.” last_img
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