W. Post Crusade Against Fair Drug Prices – Part 3

Bill Scher

Most of the media saw today’s report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and concluded the headline was that overall health care spending continues to rise.

Not the Washington Post. It’s headline? “Medicare Benefit Appears to Slow Spending Growth on Drugs”.

And so, the W. Post continues its biased coverage about Medicare’s prescription drug plan, supporting it’s editorial board in opposition to empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower prices.

The W. Post dutifully transcribed what the Bush Administration told them:

Analysts said they expect to see that spending on prescription drugs rose more slowly in 2006 because of the Medicare Part D drug benefit that began last year. In the program, private insurers negotiate prices with drug companies as they compete to attract Medicare beneficiaries.

That has helped hold down prices even as more seniors are able to get drugs, John A. Poisal of the CMS said in a briefing. National spending on prescription drugs was expected to rise to $214 billion in 2006, from $201 billion in 2005. But that increase is 0.4 percentage points less than it would have been without the new drug benefit, he said.

Everything’s going great! Just like Big Pharma says. Nothing to worry about.

The Change America Now! Campaign, which includes Campaign for America’s Future, begs to differ.

It released a statement today rebutting the Administration spin:

…the Change America Now! campaign called the CMS numbers “irrelevant” and a distraction from the fact that prescription drug prices could be significantly lower if Medicare were allowed to negotiate cheaper drugs directly with the big drug companies, just as the Veterans Administration had done successfully for America’s veterans for years…

…”Part D was written by and for the big drug companies, and the Bush administration is so eager to protect their interests that they’ll trumpet any numbers they think will make the costly, confusing, corrupt prescription drug program look good – no matter how irrelevant,” said Jeremy Funk, Press Secretary for Americans United for Change and spokesman for the Change America Now! campaign.

“The news of slightly slower spending growth under Part D is all well and good, but this means nothing to the seniors who still shoulder the burden of exorbitantly high drug costs every day. This is nothing but a distraction from the real issue: prescription drug prices for our seniors would be much lower if Medicare was allowed to negotiate cheaper drugs for seniors. The fact is, the lowest Part D plan drug prices are significantly higher than the prices negotiated by the Veterans Administration for our nation’s veterans.”…

…”Allowing Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prices with the pharmaceutical industry, just as the VA does for seniors, could save America’s seniors an estimated $50 billion, according to a recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research,” added Funk.

“And while the Bush administration is patting itself on the back over lower spending growth, it’s also interesting to note that the Bush drug plan was passed back in 2003 with an expected cost of $400 billion while the CMS actuaries now project the 10 year cost at over $1 trillion…”.

Sine.Qua.Non’s Journal, learning on first-hand experience, also offers a possible explanation:

…if Medicare Part D is slowing spending on prescription drugs, it isn’t because the program has negotiated good deals with the manufacturers, it’s because the cost burden is put upon the person paying for the prescription medication. Sort of a reverse insurance if you will.

Where you would have paid $10 you now pay for the majority of the drug price and the plan pays the co-pay you used to pay. Yeah, I suspect a lot of seniors are going without critical medications necessary to prolong their lives. Great [expletive] program.

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