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Letter: Ensure Medicare’s health by supporting changes

Ensure Medicare’s health by supporting changes

For half a century Medicare has provided America’s seniors with guaranteed health care. Retired Americans know how vital these earned benefits are! This year we are celebrating Medicare’s 50th birthday and this great program brings health security to more than 54 million Americans, mainly 65 and older. The golden anniversary of Medicare is a perfect time to consider how to keep it strong for the next 50 years.

I recently read that AARP has a longtime policy recommendation, giving the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to negotiate prices for prescription drugs covered by Medicare. It seems to me to be a very good idea and no-brainier for congress if members really care about the high costs of health care.

Americans pay a lot more for prescription drugs than people in other advanced countries do. Yet, unlike private ( for-profit) insurance plans, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. For example, a new drug for hepatitis C (Sovaldi). The retail price to Medicare is $1,000 per pill, but when negotiated the cost goes down to $534 a pill, which is the price the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs negotiated. The VA is not bound by Medicare rules and can negotiate for the best price. Medicare should also have the ability to negotiate the best price, but it doesn’t and therefore we pay the $84,000 Medicare price for 84 pills. The same 84 pills cost $66,000 in Germany and $57,000 in the United Kingdom.

High prices for medications push up health care costs for all of us and constantly exceed inflation. While Americans with health insurance drug coverage do not pay the full amount, the high prices are passed on to taxpayers and health care consumers.

Medicare is a great program that brings health care security to over 54 million Americans, who mainly are 65 or older. If you agree call your senators and ask them to co-sponsor S.31, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act.

Why do drug companies need to spend millions on advertising and marketing when their product must be prescribed by a physician?

Jim Carr

Statewide President, Public

Employees Federation Retirees