CMS, Calif. Legislators Debate Reports on Drug Costs
CMS officials and Democratic legislators on Tuesday debated the findings of reports on medication prices under the Medicare drug benefit, the Oakland Tribune reports (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 3/8).
A report by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee found that Bay Area residents pay higher prices under the Medicare drug benefit than are available at some other retail options or through agreements negotiated by the federal government (California Healthline, 3/7).
CMS Regional Administrator Jeff Flick said the report does not take into account the overall size of the Medicare program or the Medicare drug benefit's emphasis on increased use of generic drugs and lower-cost treatments.
In addition, CMS cited a March 1 report finding that Medicare beneficiaries are experiencing savings under the drug benefit. A CMS spokesperson also referenced a Consumers Union report indicating that Medicare beneficiaries could reduce drug costs by discussing lower-cost alternatives with physicians and pharmacists.
Staff members of Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) -- one of the House members who requested the committee report -- said that the CMS report is based on drug store prices and that California beneficiaries paid lower prices under rates negotiated by Medi-Cal. Regarding the Consumers Union report, Stark staff members said such savings could have been achieved outside the Medicare drug benefit (Oakland Tribune, 3/8).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.