ELDERLY DRUG ACCESS: Cap Prices, Says USA Today
A USA Today editorial calls for allowing "Medicare recipients [to] purchase prescription drugs at the discounted rates negotiated by large federal agencies," which often amount to 50% savings for recipients. The paper notes that many seniors' out-of-pocket drug expenses amount to $300 per month, and that some one out of eight Medicare beneficiaries is "forced to choose monthly between medications and other household expenses such as food." The drug industry's claims that the proposal would raise prices and stifle innovation are unfounded, the paper says, and notes that the plan would be beneficial to taxpayers by making seniors healthier overall -- resulting in fewer surgeries, shorter hospital stays and less long term care. In contrast, proposals to offer Medicare coverage for drugs might cost more than $15 billion per year. The paper concludes: "So if the alternative offers some protection for seniors without costing taxpayers more than start-up costs, why not explore it? Because billion-dollar drug companies say they can't live with it? Millions of ailing elderly can't do otherwise" (2/4).
Remember Those Gas Lines?
In the "Opposing View" column, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President Alan Holmer argues that "[y]ou don't need to go back further than the '70s and long lines at gas stations to remember that price controls don't work." He writes that such a policy would drive up prices overall and "discourage biomedical innovation and investment in developing tomorrow's cures." Furthermore, the "too-good-to-be-true 'answer'" does not address the "lack of prescription drug coverage for 35% of the elderly," which is the real problem that needs to be addressed. He concludes: "The National Bipartisan Commission on Medicare is grappling with this issue. Let's wait and see what the experts have to say. Then, let's have a serious debate on how to ensure the benefits of innovative medicines to all seniors, without hurting the research that will lead to cures for seniors and for their children and grandchildren" (2/4).