Legislation introduced today would give beneficiaries a Medicare-run drug option and make it possible for Medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. Right now, the programs Part D drug benefit is offered through private insurance plans, said Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.), who is co-sponsoring a bill in the House with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) has introduced an identical bill in the Senate.
In a teleconference, Berry said that offering a nationwide prescription-drug plan through Medicare would save $42 billion in taxpayer money. Private plans currently get billions of dollars in rebates that arent passed on to customers, he said. A national Medicare-run plan would reduce confusion and complexity in the current program, Schakowsky said.
A report released today by the Consumers Union and the Medicare Rights Center concluded that the Medicare drug benefit available only through private plans is unnecessarily costly, has coverage gaps, is unstable and leaves consumers vulnerable to marketing fraud because of the number of plans offering such divergent benefit packages. The two groups joined the lawmakers at the teleconference today to support the legislation.
Mohit Ghose, spokesman for Americas Health Insurance Plans, countered that competition in the private sector and the ability of private plans to do tough negotiations with drug companies has already led to a benefit that is providing savings to the federal government and also providing the types of services beneficiaries need. -- by Jennifer Lubell
What do you think? Post a comment on this article and share your opinion with other readers. Submit your letter to Modern Healthcare Online at [email protected]. Please be sure to include your hometown and state, along with your organization and title.