February 13, 2007

Whitehouse: Bush Administration Stonewalling on Negotiating Power for Medicare Prescription Drug Program

Rhode Island Senator Calls for Answers at Budget Hearing

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today sharply questioned a senior Bush administration official over the administration’s opposition to negotiating for lower prescription drug prices under the Medicare Part D program.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael O. Leavitt appeared before the Senate Budget Committee, on which Whitehouse sits, to discuss the administration’s fiscal year 2008 budget request for federal health care programs.
“As seniors confront skyrocketing prescription drug costs, it’s extraordinarily frustrating that the Bush administration is unwilling to pursue the obvious remedy: lower drug prices through negotiation,” Whitehouse said.
A vocal advocate for health care reform, Whitehouse has repeatedly called for Medicare to have the authority to negotiate for lower drug prices. Today, he cited a January report by Families USA showing that prices for the top drugs prescribed for seniors are 58 percent higher in Medicare drug plans than when offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While the VA is permitted to negotiate with drug companies to get the best price for their beneficiaries, Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating for lower drug prices under the current Part D program.
Whitehouse has heard from many Rhode Island seniors who were confused and frustrated by problems they experienced with Medicare Part D. As of last month, 38,400 seniors in Rhode Island who are eligible for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D had not yet enrolled, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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