Wyden, Merkley push for capping Rx prices, allowing Medicare to negotiate

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley came to Portland Wednesday to stump for federal legislation that would cap prescription drug costs for seniors.

“These prescription drug costs are clobbering older people in Oregon and across the country,” said Wyden, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill. “It’s a prescription of punishment, so many costs are not covered.”

The legislation would eliminate all cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries in Part D plans above the current out-of-pocket threshold of $7,500. It would potentially benefit 754,000 seniors in Oregon on Medicare.

Wyden and Merkley, also a Democrat, spoke at downtown’s Central Drugs,which has been around since 1903. Co-owner Shelley Bailey aid she sees customers on a daily basis “try to decide how much they can spend in their food budget and their drug budget.”

“I was very encouraged when I saw the prescription cap legislation,” Bailey said.

Wyden would also like to lift the restriction that keeps Medicare from bargaining with drug manufacturers on sole-source drugs. Merkley pointed out that prescription costs are cheaper for the Veterans’ Administration system, which has negotiating power.

“Sen. Merkley and I are pulling out all stops to get that changed,” Wyden said. “It’s going to be increasingly hard for lobbyists to hold this off.”

The last time Wyden introduced such legislation in 2007 on the Senate floor, he received 55 votes, six of them Republicans. He plans to try again after the election.

Sue Volek, who is 66, said she worries about what the future holds for her. Seven years ago, she underwent a bone marrow transplant, followed by a heart attack. She takes 15 prescriptions a day.

“This is an issue dear to my heart,” she said.