The measure could save taxpayers $156 billion over 10 years, said the bill's chief sponsor Peter Welch (D-Vt.) at a news conference. Welch noted that taxpayers fund three-quarters of the cost alone for the Medicare Part D drug benefit, yet the program, which serves 28 million seniors, has been barred from negotiating rates with the pharmaceutical industry since 2004. That these beneficiaries “continue to pay retail rates for wholesale purchases is a crime,” Welch said.
The legislation, however, faces an uphill battle in the Senate, which rejected similar legislation in 2007. Language on drug-price negotiation had also been included in the House's health reform bill, but was taken out during initial House-Senate talks on a final reform package. Lower prices for Medicare, it was argued, would drive private sector prices higher and hamper research and development.
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs who signed onto the bill, said the only choice is to “work with leadership” to make sure it gets included. “Negotiations are tough,” she said.
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