Goodbye Non-Interference. Hello Con-Interference.

  • by: |
  • 01/04/2007
Courtesy of Mr. Dingell and Mr. Rangel, please welcome the “Medicare Prescription Price Negotiation Act of 2007.”

Goodbye non-interference. Hello con-interference.

And if the devil is in the details this bill is as saintly as they come because, there ain’t no details – 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 there’s no there there.

Good news because there’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, “… the Secretary shall negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers the prices that may be charged for covered part D drugs for part D eligible individuals,” but “nothing shall be construed to authorize the Secretary to establish or require a particular formulary” and “… shall not be construed as affecting the Secretary’s authority to ensure appropriate and adequate access to covered part D drugs under prescription drug plans …”

So, the Feds can negotiate, but if the negotiations fail (whatever that means), the Secretary doesn’t have the authority to “ban” 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 prices” need not even be the lowest ones. As the draft bill reads, “Nothing 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)” – the “government price.”

A total toothless wonder – and no wonder. The new Congressional majority knows how to read a poll. Seniors like the prescription drug benefit. It works. It’s an entitlement – the newest political third rail.

This bill is a dodge. A face-saver. And it’s dishonest from every angle. For those who believe in real price controls (Rahm Emanuel, etc.) it’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 “yea” vote – since it really won’t do anything. But, as stated above – it’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:

Download file

See if you can read it in its entirely while holding your breath. And then take a deep breath – because the battle has begun.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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