Augusta Free Press

Warner, Kaine join senators introducing bill to reduce prescription drug costs

U.S. Senators Mark Warner, a member of the Senate Budget, Finance and Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committees, and Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Budget and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committees, joined U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and 29 of their colleagues to introduce legislation to lower prescription drug costs. This bill would allow for Medicare to negotiate the best possible price of prescription drugs to cut costs for nearly 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and bans Medicare from doing so.

The legislation would permit the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for the best possible prices. By harnessing the bargaining power of nearly 41 million seniors, Medicare could negotiate discounts and help drive down costs of prescription drugs.

“We are the only major government in the world that does not leverage its purchasing power to negotiate prescription drug prices. This bill will allow Medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies like other countries already do, helping lower drug prices across the entire healthcare system,” said Sen. Warner. “This commonsense measure is only one piece to a comprehensive approach we must take to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and make prescription drugs more affordable for all Americans.”

“The bill seeks to bring down the rising costs of prescription drugs for patients by letting Medicare negotiate for the best price,” Kaine said. “This bill seeks to cut costs for nearly 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D, ensuring that our seniors don’t have to choose between prescription drugs they depend on and other essentials like food and housing.”

Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of this policy change throughout their time in the Senate. In July, Sen. Warner urged the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into ways in which the private sector has successfully implemented outcome-based arrangements with drug manufacturers and provide this data to lawmakers so they can figure out ways to contain prescription drug costs. Kaine has co-sponsored earlier versions of this legislation in June 2013, January 2015, and January 2017 and sent a letter urging the incoming Trump administration to work with Congress to lower prescription drug prices.

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are cosponsors of the legislation.