WASHINGTON, D.C. – In advance of tomorrow’s 50th Anniversary of Medicare, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined new legislation designed to improve this critical health program by increasing access to more affordable prescription medications for seniors. A new report released by the Medicare Trustees found a 10.9 percent increase in the cost of drug prices last year, primarily due to new and specialty drug prices.
“Fifty years after the creation of Medicare, we have made historic improvements to our health care system. But there’s still more work to be done to improve and strengthen these programs so all Americans can retire with a sense of security,” Brown said. “That’s why it’s critical to seek opportunities to save taxpayers money while continuing to provide seniors with high-quality, affordable care. As we commemorate this milestone, there is a renewed urgency to protect and strengthen this critical program for future generations.”
During a news conference call today, Brown was joined by Belle Likover, a 95-year-old Medicare recipient from the Cleveland area who discussed how Medicare has helped her receive high-quality care while keeping costs under control. Following the call, Brown released a county-by-county report on the more than one million Ohio seniors who are Part D beneficiaries.
Brown announced the introduction of the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, legislation that would allow seniors to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan administered by Medicare instead of a private insurance company. The bill would also help drive down costs for Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D by requiring the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate lower prices for prescription medications.
“The rising cost of drug prices threatens the promise that seniors can live their final years with dignity,” Brown continued. “Ohio seniors should be able to get drug coverage directly through Medicare, not be forced to buy from a middle man. That’s why I am cosponsoring the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, which would allow seniors to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan administered directly by Medicare – instead of an insurance company – making prescription drugs more affordable.”
Specifically, the legislation would require the Secretary of the HHS to create one or more Medicare-administered prescription drug plans available nationwide to compete with existing private prescription drug plans (PDPs). The Secretary would also be required to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the price of drugs covered by the plan or plans. The Medicare-administered drug plan would have to meet the same requirements as existing PDPs, like assuring access to pharmacies.
Brown is also a cosponsor of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, legislation that would help Medicare negotiate the best prescription medication prices for seniors – keeping costs down for Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D. Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and bans Medicare from doing so. The bill would allow the HHS to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program , eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for the best possible prices even though the government can often can often negotiate bigger discounts than insurance companies.
Brown has been a strong supporter of efforts to preserve and improve Medicare. In July 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law legislation to establish Medicare and Medicaid. Since then, Medicare has provided millions of American seniors and individuals with disabilities with quality and affordable health care coverage.
Below is the county-by-county list of seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D.
Eligible Seniors 10,005
Enrolled Seniors 6,331
Eligible Seniors 11,739
Enrolled Seniors 6,709
Eligible Seniors 6,314
Enrolled Seniors 3,594
Eligible Seniors 26,432
Enrolled Seniors 16,166
Eligible Seniors 2,136,297
Enrolled Seniors 1,041,632
Note: This chart only reflects eligibility and enrollment in Part D plans. Ohio beneficiaries who receive their prescription drug benefit through a Medicare Part C plan (Medicare Advantage program) are not included as part of the “enrolled” column.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, July 2015