Senator Sanders Meets with Seniors Advisory Council

BURLINGTON, Vt., April 23 - Senator Bernie Sanders announced the formation of a 25-member Senior Citizen Advisory Council. At the first meeting at his Senate office here, the council and Sanders discussed rising prescription drug prices, health care, transportation, housing and other issues affecting senior citizens.

Sanders discussed a proposal to let Medicare use its bargaining leverage to negotiate lower costs for prescription drugs and other measures to bring down health care costs.

BURLINGTON, Vt., April 23 - Senator Bernie Sanders announced the formation of a 25-member Senior Citizen Advisory Council. At the first meeting at his Senate office here, the council and Sanders discussed rising prescription drug prices, health care, transportation, housing and other issues affecting senior citizens. Sanders discussed a proposal to let Medicare use its bargaining leverage to negotiate lower costs for prescription drugs and other measures to bring down health care costs. "The federal government has a great opportunity to force the pharmaceutical companies to lower prices. By using the enormous buying power of the government, Medicare can negotiate cheaper prices," Sanders said. He noted that it is illegal for Medicare to bargain for better prices under a law crafted by pharmaceutical company lobbyists. "This," he said, "is absurd." He noted that Republicans in the Senate last week blocked consideration of legislation that would have allowed Medicare to seek lower prices for drugs. "I will continue to press this issue and hope we will see a vote on this important opportunity later this spring." Sanders said. Sanders also said he would press for passage of legislation to allow re-importation to the United States of lower-cost prescription drugs from other countries. Sanders has been working on the issue since 1999, when he became the first member of Congress to take constituents across the Canadian border to buy prescription drugs at a fraction of the price charged in the United States. "I have seen first hand that Americans have to pay up to 10 times more than people in other countries for exactly the same medicine," he said. Among those attending the seniors council meeting were Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, acting director of AARP in Vermont; John Barbour, executive director of the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging, and Betty Stambolian of the Alliance of Retired Americans. "We support efforts to reduce both the cost of prescription medicine and to fill coverage gaps in the Medicare program," said Barbour. At a press conference afterward, Sanders told reporters, the council discussed the need to make physical improvements at senior centers in Vermont, increase funding for the Older Americans Act, and protect the nutritional programs for seniors. "We also intend to work together on senior health issues, transportation, affordable housing and assisted living arrangements for seniors," he added. To view video from the meeting click here.