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Franken makes play for Medicare drug price negotiations

Posted by: under Health care, Minnesota U.S. senators Updated: January 26, 2011 - 3:27 PM
Picking at one of the old scabs of the health care debate, Sen. Al Franken, D-Min., has introduced legislation that would allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
 
The prohibition on negotiations was long a sore point among Democrats during the Bush years. But it was one of the first concessions President Obama made in the early going of the health care debate.
 
Now, with House Republicans having voted to repeal Obama’s health care overhaul, and everyone in Washington seemingly looking for something they can call common ground, the suggestion box is open for ways to tweak the law.
 
It’s not clear, however, that Franken’s bill is anybody’s idea of common ground, with the pharmaceutical industry and its GOP allies in Congress likely to take a dim view of a plan they would describe as government-dictated drug prices.
 
Franken says the Prescription Drug and Health Improvement Act would cut prescription drug costs for seniors in Minnesota and across the country.
 
“When I travel around Minnesota, I always hear from seniors that they’re still paying far too much for prescription drugs,” Franken said.
 
Franken’s measure would eliminate the prohibition against negotiations put in place when the Medicare drug benefit was enacted under President Bush.  It would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of all Medicare beneficiaries, leveraging the power of nearly 50 million Medicare patients to lower prices. Under current law, drug prices are negotiated directly between pharmaceutical companies and private insurance companies.

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