DRUG DISCOUNTS: Gallegos Introduces Bill for Medicare Enrollees
Drugmakers would be forced to sell prescription drugs at "steeply discounted prices" to Medicare recipients without drug benefits, under a bill introduced yesterday by Assemblyman Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park). "We want to stop the abuse of the elderly by the pharmaceutical companies who are making tremendous profits on a group that is the most vulnerable of our population," Gallegos said (Wall Street Journal, 2/25). The bill, AB 757, would give seniors of "modest income" discounts of up to 50% -- the same amount extended to "large purchasers such as HMOs and the federal government" -- and would exclude noncompliant drugmakers from Medi-Cal, the Los Angeles Times reports (Bernstein, 2/25). The Journal reports that the measure would create a state purchasing pool for the seniors, the administrative costs of which would be "shouldered by taxpayers." Drugmakers would digest the cost of the discounts themselves (2/25).
Gallegos' measure is analogous to a bill recently introduced at the federal level that the Times reports has a "slim" prospect of being passed by "the Republican-controlled Congress." Gallegos said, "There's a better chance of us being able to do this in California than on the federal level." The pharmaceutical industry is opposed to measures such as these. Meredith Mayo of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of American "said it would be better to expand Medicare to cover prescription drugs than to institute mandatory pricing" (2/25).