Newspapers Assess Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Plans
Democrats and Republicans made headlines last week by preparing several competing Medicare prescription drug plans for consideration this session. The following are summaries of recent editorials discussing their efforts.
Des Moines Register: Congress should "re-evaluate its overly friendly relationship" with the pharmaceutical industry before turning its attention to controlling costs in any potential Medicare drug benefit. While it would be "wrong" to establish price controls, Congress needs to "lower the price of drugs at the source." To do so, lawmakers could "accelerate" availability of generic drugs through the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act (S 812), which would eliminate the 30-month stay afforded to drug companies that file lawsuits to delay generic competition. Under the bill, companies would need to prove why generic pharmaceuticals should be kept from the market while the litigation is resolved. The current policy puts the "weight of the government" behind the drug companies and their high prices, the editorial states, adding that instead, the government should be "on the side of the consumer." The Register concludes: "Greater access to less expensive drugs will save taxpayers money, and that could result in a better Medicare benefit for America's seniors" (Des Moines Register, 6/17).
Los Angeles Times: Although Democrats and Republicans have proposed plans for a Medicare drug benefit, the only "bright spot" in Congress is the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act, which would "help speed generic drugs to market." Sponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), the bill is "admittedly ... far short of reforming Medicare." However, "it's probably the only prescription drug assistance voters can expect from legislators this year," the Los Angeles Times concludes (Los Angeles Times, 6/17).
- Newsday: Despite the competing Democratic and Republican proposals to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, "there will be a lot more said than done" when it comes to actually implementing a plan. The plans favored by the two parties are "far apart," illustrating that "drug coverage can be inadequate and affordable, or adequate and unaffordable." Even though both parties are "pushing plans" for a Medicare drug benefit, "voters should see the current flurry of activity on drug coverage for what it is: political positioning for the November election," Newsday concludes (Newsday, 6/17).
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