Wyden, Merkley bill would give Medicare drug negotiating power

WASHINGTON – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced a bill this week they say would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for the 43 million seniors who participate in Medicare Part D.

“Medicare should be able to use its massive bargaining power to lower seniors’ drug prices. It’s high time to rein in the drug industry’s arbitrary, profit-driven pricing power and protect Americans from the ever-increasing cost of prescriptions,” Wyden said. “Too often, I hear from Oregonians in town halls and supermarket aisles about their struggles to balance the rent, utility bills, and medical costs, including prescription drugs. Big Pharma has taken advantage of Medicare for too long at seniors’ and taxpayers’ expense – enough is enough.

“The one consistent issue I hear from Oregonians at town halls is that the cost of health care is too high, and the cost of prescription drugs is breaking the bank,” Merkley said. “It is way past time to end the drug-price gouging of Americans. Enabling Medicare to negotiate with drug companies is a key step in this effort.”

The bill, called the Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act of 2019, would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate fair prescription drug prices under Part D of the Medicare program by striking the so-called “non-interference clause” that prevents the government from negotiating directly with drug manufacturers.

In 2019, Medicare Part D, which offers seniors coverage for their prescription drugs, is expected to spend $99 billion, roughly 15 percent of total Medicare spending. Seniors’ yearly out-of-pocket costs for drugs have been roughly $500 in recent years, with much higher costs, on average $3,000, for those with the most significant prescription costs.