- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Requiring the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices won’t save money, as Democrats contend, the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday.

“The secretary would be unable to negotiate prices across the broad range of covered Part D drugs that are more favorable than those obtained by [the plans] under current law,” Donald B. Marron, the CBO’s acting director, told Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat.

Mr. Dingell is author of a bill that the House will take up tomorrow requiring the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Current law prohibits the government from negotiating drug prices in Medicare Part D, granting that role to insurers.

The Michigan lawmaker was not dissuaded by the letter, which quickly made its way around Capitol Hill.

“This isn’t the first time the Congress and CBO differed on the amount of savings a particular bill would achieve,” Mr. Dingell said. “Common sense tells you that negotiating with the purchasing power of 43 million Medicare beneficiaries behind you would result in lower drug prices.”

The CBO’s letter came on the same day that the Bush administration announced that more than 1 million seniors and disabled people have enrolled in the Medicare prescription-drug program in recent months. The Part D program, which began last year, just completed an open-enrollment season that allowed seniors to enter the program Jan. 1.

In addition, businesses get a tax credit when they offer prescription-drug coverage to their retirees. The number of Medicare beneficiaries getting drug coverage through that subsidy increased by about 200,000.

All told, more than 90 percent of seniors have some kind of prescription-drug coverage.

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