Dems pursue Medicare Part D drugmaker rebates

House Democrats including two from the Bay Area have introduce a bill they say would save the government more than $100 billion by reducing Medicare Part D prescription drug costs for taxpayers “without resorting to the Republicans’ reckless proposal to double seniors’ health care costs by 2022 by dismantling Medicare.”

H.R. 2190, the Medicare Drug Savings Act of 2011 was introduced yesterday to eliminate what its authors call “a sweetheart deal for brand-name drug manufacturers that allows them to charge Medicare higher prices for millions of low-income enrollees in the Medicare Part D program.”

Until 2006, the government received substantial rebates on drugs used by “dual eligible” Medicare and Medicaid enrollees. But the Medicare Part D law eliminated these rebates, dramatically raising prices for the government and windfall profits for manufacturers. H.R. 2190 seeks to eliminate the windfall, requiring that manufacturers pay the rebates for dual eligible and low-income Part D enrollees so taxpayers and the Medicare program don’t overpay.

A similar proposal was also included in the recommendations from the President’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the bill’s backers note.

Pete Stark“Instead of making devastating cuts to programs that help low-income and middle-income Americans, as Republicans keep putting on the table, we should do what every other industrialized country does and ask the pharmaceutical industry, one of the wealthiest in the world, to chip in,” Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s ranking member and an original co-sponsor of this bill, said in a news release.

“What’s more, the savings from this legislation could pay for a multi-year ‘doc fix’ – something we tried to do in a comprehensive way but have had to address yearly so Medicare’s payments to doctors aren’t slashed,” Stark added.

“The federal government is the largest payor for senior’s drugs and it is absurd we do not use our bargaining power to negotiate drug discounts with the high profit pharmaceutical industry,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking member and another original co-sponsor. “Unlike the Republican plan, Democrats recognize that you don’t reform Medicare by ending the program nor do you make Medicaid sustainable by simply shifting the costs onto states. This bill will improve Medicare and Medicaid’s sustainability while still providing the needed benefits our nation’s citizens depend on.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills, introduced the bill. Besides Stark and Miller, the other original co-sponsors are Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich.; John Dingell, D-Mich.; and Rob Andrews, D-N.J., ranking member on Education and the Workforce’s Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.