Sanders-Cummings Medicare Part D Legislation Would Lower Seniors’ Medicine Costs

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Sanders-Cummings Medicare Part D Legislation Would Lower Seniors’ Medicine Costs

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen.

WASHINGTON - This afternoon, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) will introduce the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, legislation to allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to directly negotiate prices for Medicare Part D. The legislation would eliminate the “non-interference clause,” which prevents HHS from negotiating directly with pharmaceutical corporations or establishing a formulary, would put in place guidelines for negotiations and would establish a fallback for when negotiations don’t work. The legislation is the latest in a series of powerful measures introduced in the 115th U.S. Congress to make medicines more affordable for Americans, including S. 1369, H.R. 2974, introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and S. 771, H.R. 1776, introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). A 2015 analysis (PDF) from Public Citizen and Carleton University estimated that if HHS were able to attain the same prices as Medicaid or the Veterans Health Administration, Medicare Part D would save from $15.2 billion to $16 billion each year.

There’s no reason for the United States government to be a sucker. But our government is ripped off on a grand scale by Big Pharma every day. Medicare Part D is the largest buyer of prescription medications in the world, yet the program consistently pays more for the very same brand-name medicines than other rich countries. Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating medicine prices, thanks to an outrageous provision that Big Pharma bought with millions spent on campaign contributions and lobbying.

Today’s legislation is supported by more than nine in 10 Americans across the party spectrum because it’s common sense: When you buy more of a product than anyone else in the world, you should leverage that purchasing power.

Across the country people are demanding that Congress provide relief (PDF) from unaffordable medications. Sen. Sanders and Rep. Cummings have responded. The rest of our elected officials should follow their leadership.

This legislation will be a test for the Trump administration. Big Pharma is “getting away with murder,” President Donald Trump stated in January. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly,” he added, accurately. But since in office, Trump administration medicine policy has been hijacked by Big Pharma itself, and it has done nothing to restrain outrageous abuses. If Trump meant what he said, then he should be leading the charge for passage of this legislation.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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