Goodbye non-interference. Hello con-interference.
And if the devil is in the details this bill is as saintly as they come because, there ainâ€™t no details â€“ the bill runs just a tad over two whole pages, double spaced. Talk about Part D Deficit Disorder.
The good news/bad news is that thereâ€™s no there there.
Good news because thereâ€™s no there there.
Bad news because it is the beginning of the slippery slope towards choice controls (aka: price controls). And, because of that, it must be robustly fought.
According to the draft bill, â€œâ€¦ the Secretary shall negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers the prices that may be charged for covered part D drugs for part D eligible individuals,â€ but â€œnothing shall be construed to authorize the Secretary to establish or require a particular formularyâ€ and â€œâ€¦ shall not be construed as affecting the Secretaryâ€™s authority to ensure appropriate and adequate access to covered part D drugs under prescription drug plans â€¦â€
So, the Feds can negotiate, but if the negotiations fail (whatever that means), the Secretary doesnâ€™t have the authority to â€œbanâ€ any drug from any federally-funded formulary (i.e., every single existing part D plan). Some hammer.
And, to remove yet another tooth, the bill makes clear that "government pricesâ€ need not even be the lowest ones. As the draft bill reads, â€œNothing in this subsection shall be construed as preventing the sponsor of a prescription drug plan, or an organization offering an MA-PD plan, from obtaining a discount or reduction of the price for a covered part D drug below the price negotiated under paragraph (1)â€ â€“ the â€œgovernment price.â€
A total toothless wonder â€“ and no wonder. The new Congressional majority knows how to read a poll. Seniors like the prescription drug benefit. It works. Itâ€™s an entitlement â€“ the newest political third rail.
This bill is a dodge. A face-saver. And itâ€™s dishonest from every angle. For those who believe in real price controls (Rahm Emanuel, etc.) itâ€™s a teensy-weensy baby step. Such folks (however wrong-minded) should be outraged at such a lame piece of legislation. For those opposed, it might very well be seen as an easy â€œyeaâ€ vote â€“ since it really wonâ€™t do anything. But, as stated above â€“ itâ€™s a slippery slope with the slippery folks at the helm for the time being. "Least worst" alternatives must not acceptable when it comes to the public health.
Here is a link to the draft legislation:
See if you can read it in its entirely while holding your breath. And then take a deep breath â€“ because the battle has begun.