Bush Stands Firm Against Overhauling Medicare Drug Benefit
President Bush on Monday said he would continue to oppose efforts to revise the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
At a White House meeting with about a dozen Medicare beneficiaries and senior advocates, Bush said that the Medicare prescription drug benefit has cost less than expected and has high rates of satisfaction among beneficiaries. The Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2006 cost about $30 billion, about 30% less than the expected $43 billion, in part because of lower-than-expected enrollment, a less-than-expected increase in prescription drug costs and larger-than-expected discounts on medications negotiated by private health insurers.
Bush said, "I just want to assure you that we'll do everything we can to jealously guard why this program is working. That basically means making sure seniors are still in charge of the decisions."
He added, "As we begin to think through solutions for Medicare, we ought to make sure that we remember the principles inherent in this Medicare reform that has worked so well for our seniors, and that principle is competition works" (Freking, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/23).
"Introducing government price controls into the Medicare drug plan would most harm the very people Medicare is supposed to protect," Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, writes in a Chicago Tribune opinion piece.
According to Pitts, legislation that would allow the HHS secretary to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications under the Medicare prescription drug benefit "would have a 'negligible effect' on saving money for seniors," but the "medium- and long-term consequences would be severe, for public health in general and especially for seniors themselves, who as a group have the greatest need for cutting-edge medicines."
He adds, "If ... we threaten drug companies with 'negotiations' that amount to price controls, we will bring research and development, and the possibility of discovering new cures, to a halt" (Pitts, Chicago Tribune, 4/24).