Just like Medicare, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last week, prescription drugs have helped Americans live longer and healthier lives.
But for too many Americans, the high cost of prescription drugs forces them to choose between taking their full dosage and putting food on the table or keeping their lights on.
And drug costs are on the rise. A report released last month by the Medicare Trustees found an alarming 10.9 percent increase in the cost of drugs offered through Medicare’s prescription drug plans last year – primarily due to the high prices of new and specialty drugs.
That’s why I’m cosponsoring legislation that would increase access to more affordable prescription medications for seniors. This would drive down the costs for more than 24 million Americans, including the more than one million Ohioans enrolled in one of Medicare’s Part D prescription drug plans.
The Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act would allow seniors to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan administered directly by Medicare, instead of a private insurance company.
You should be able to get drug coverage directly through Medicare, not be forced to buy from a middle man. Unfortunately, in order to get drug coverage through Medicare, you must join a plan run by an insurance company or another private company. These plans vary in cost and coverage.
My legislation would provide for a consistent Part D plan administered directly by the Medicare program, and would allow Medicare to negotiate the best prescription medication prices for seniors.
Current law expressly bans Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for the best possible prices – even though the government can often negotiate bigger discounts than private insurance companies.
For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs uses this type of negotiating authority and has cut name brand drug prices by as much as 50 percent. My legislation would save taxpayers money while providing seniors with a high-quality, affordable prescription drug plan.
It’s not enough to just celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Medicare and Medicaid. We must defend Medicare for future generations and make sure it works for today’s seniors.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. senator from Ohio.