Medicare's Muddled Ground: From the Mind of Pete (Raving) Stark

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  • 12/12/2006
Pete (Raving) Stark has announced that Democrats will seek a middle ground on pharma and biotech price controls in Medicare Part D next year. No government run plan to compete with private plans says the Stark. That would be perceived as too radical.

"That might draw a veto and then get us accused -- which I don't mind, but most of my colleagues do -- of price-setting and all that. … There's a hesitancy to seem too radical."

Instead, the D's will just instruct the HHS Sec'y to squeeze companies for the VA price and then run and tell Congress what a bunch of price gougers they are relative to what they are charging seniors in the private plans. Drugwonks is sure there won't be any penalties or punishments available for not bringing companies to heel....

And in the hypocrite department...

Stark said he also wanted to reduce the number of private plans available to seniors.

There are now 40 or more plans operating in many markets; Stark would like to reduce that to 15 or 20.

Let's travel back in time to January 2003 and listen to Minority Leader Pelosi on the issue of choice in Medicare:

"In his State of the Union Address last night, President Bush emphasized the importance 'choice.' I agree. Choice is important.

"However, under the President’s plan, our senior citizens may no longer have the choice to go to their own doctor. Seniors may no longer have the choice to fill their prescriptions at their local drug stores. This is particularly harmful to seniors who live in our rural communities."

Drugwonks notes that the reason there are so many plans is that particularly in rural areas you need lots of plans competing to include networks of local pharmacies. But apparently Raving Stark thinks he knows exactly what amount of choice is just right for seniors -- now and in the future, along with what prices will bring forth the appropriate medicines.

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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