AARP Softens Position on Reimportation, Says Medicare Benefit Cheaper
AARP in a new analysis said that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit could save beneficiaries more than buying prescriptions from outside the U.S., "soften[ing]" its position on drug reimportation legislation, The Hill reports.
AARP's analysis, titled "The New Math: Cheaper Than Canada? The Drug Benefit May Be the Better Deal," examines the federal government's Medicare drug plan finder to compare costs under Medicare stand-alone drug plans with potential savings from reimportation. The analysis finds that beneficiaries who enroll in a low-cost Medicare prescription drug plan could save more than if they were to buy the same drugs in Canada.
The Hill notes that AARP has been working with UnitedHealth Group to offer a Medicare drug plan, in which more than two million beneficiaries have enrolled.
The change in position on reimportation for the association, which previously endorsed the practice, "could severely damage momentum for legislation pending in Congress" and "could also alleviate political pressure on the White House and the pharmaceutical industry," according to The Hill.
AARP said that it still supports reimportation legislation. AARP spokesperson Mark Kitchens said, "The bottom line is drug prices are too high. The two ideas (reimportation and the Medicare drug benefit) are not mutually exclusive. Many Americans that are not on Medicare would benefit from reimportation."
AARP CEO Bill Novelli said, "Millions of Americans who have never had drug coverage can now save more money through Medicare part D rather than turning to Canada to get their prescriptions."
Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, "AARP is selling Medicare drug coverage, so it's not surprising that they're pushing their own product. Now they are making an apples-to-oranges comparison between Medicare drug coverage and Canadian drug prices. Seniors deserve decent drug coverage, and every American deserves lower-priced drugs."
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will not create savings for every beneficiary. He added, "We need to continue to work on other ways to lower prescription drugs costs for all Americans" (McCormack/Cusack, The Hill, 1/4).
The analysis is available online.