Bill Would Allow Medicare to Pay Same Prices as VA
WASHINGTON, May 4 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Thursday introduced legislation to cut the price of prescription drugs under Medicare in half by requiring Medicare to pay no more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If this legislation were signed into law, Medicare would save an estimated $835 billion over the next decade.
“There is no rational reason, other than greed, for Medicare to pay twice as much for the same exact prescription drugs as the VA,” Sanders said. “The bill we are introducing today would cut the price of prescription drugs in half under Medicare, save taxpayers $835 billion over the next decade and provide real relief to millions of seniors who cannot afford their prescription drugs. If the VA can negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies to substantially reduce the price of prescription drugs (which it has done for the past 30 years), we can and we must require Medicare to receive the same exact prices that the VA pays for prescription drugs. If Republicans are really serious about reducing the deficit they should support this bill.”
“Last year, we took significant steps towards bringing down prescription drug prices when provisions based on my bill to empower Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices were signed into law. But there’s still more we can do to build on this progress,” said Klobuchar. `“No one should have to leave the pharmacy with an unfilled prescription because it’s too expensive. This legislation would drive down prescription drug costs for our seniors and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”
A 2021 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the VA paid 54 percent less per unit for nearly 400 brand name and generic prescription drugs than Medicare Part D in 2017. Another report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that Medicare pays about twice as much as the VA for the exact same medicine. According to the CBO, on average, a 30-day prescription of a top-selling brand-name drug costs $190 under the VA but $343 under Medicare. For specialty drugs, the VA pays an average of $2,002 per one-month supply while Medicare pays $4,902. The reason for these massive price discrepancies is that the VA has been negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry to reduce the price of medicine for over 30 years, while Medicare has been banned by law from negotiating for lower prices. Even after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare has the authority to negotiate the price of only ten prescription drugs by 2026 and a few more in the years that follow.
Sanders and Klobuchar’s Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act goes much further than the reforms enacted last year. The legislation requires that pharmaceutical manufacturers must make their medicines available to Medicare at prices that do not exceed the prices paid for the same medicines by either the VA or the Federal Supply Schedule – whichever price is lower.