Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, it’s working
[Rep. Henry] Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, laid out his health oversight priorities for the year at a Feb. 9 hearing, drawing a bull’s-eye on Medicare’s Part D drug benefit and the drugmakers and distributors in the program.
Citing a lack of transparency by drugmakers, pharmacies and insurers, Waxman said the current system “calls out for more fraud, and a harder job for those who are trying to protect the taxpayers.”
Witnesses at the Feb. 9 hearing said the government has failed to carefully monitor the cost of its drug programs, Part D in particular.
“Many government programs do not know the prices they pay for drugs,” said Gerard Anderson, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University. While beneficiaries of the plans can often find out their share of the cost for the drugs, Anderson explained, the government had little means to understand its costs.
Medicare’s private drug plans are required to report profit and pricing data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is supposed to monitor for fraudulent activity.
This is why requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices, as the House-approved bill does, is so important.
George Bush’s Medicare doesn’t even bother to keep track of what it’s paying for drugs. You can’t expect them to negotiate in good faith unless mandated by law.
Having said that, with these guys, even requiring isn’t enough! They’re required to keep track of prices, and they don’t bother.
No matter what version of the prescription drug law clears Congress, vigorous oversight is critical — either to pressure the Bush Administration to make the program work, or to make perfectly clear why it isn’t working.