Medicare has been a great American success story, protecting the health and financial well-being of millions of senior citizens. It’s an American promise that should never be broken.
A part of that promise is keeping prescription drug prices affordable for our seniors. When Medicare Part D was created in 2003, its goal was to supply cheaper prescription drugs to senior citizens. Ten years later, it is time to make improvements to this program to ensure we are meeting that goal.
The “non-interference” clause in Medicare Part D expressly prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower prices from pharmaceutical companies. Unlike the Veterans Administration (VA), Medicare has its hands tied, unable to advocate on behalf of its beneficiaries. With Medicare barred from negotiating discounts, the more than 35 million senior citizens enrolling in Medicare Part D face inflated prices for vital medications.
Recently, I introduced legislation to address this problem. The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act will empower Medicare to negotiate the best possible price for America’s senior citizens and taxpayers.
The bill allows for negotiation for lower prices of drugs just like the Veterans Administration does now. This already existing process has proven to be highly effective, and there is no reason these practices cannot be adopted by Medicare.
This is a matter of fairness for our seniors, who deserve affordable prices for their prescription drugs. Faced with many economic challenges, the last thing seniors need is an unnecessary obstacle to their financial security.
The health and well-being of seniors is also on the line. A recent study found that older Americans appear to be rationing their use of medications based on financial considerations. This is unacceptable. For many senior citizens, prescription drugs are as essential as food and housing.
This legislation also represents an opportunity for common ground on debt reduction. Through negotiating discounts, rebates, and other price concessions, the government could save up to $24 billion every year.
Allowing for negotiation of prescription drug prices will help strengthen and preserve Medicare, ensuring that this vital program that has protected and provided for our seniors for decades can continue to do so for generations to come.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minneapolis, is Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator.