Medicare should join drug price negotiations

One of the big factors in the rising cost of medical care is the cost of prescription drugs. Lots of senior citizens can tell you about the challenge of paying their pharmacy bill, even with Medicare. The fact is, U.S. citizens pay the highest prices for prescriptions of any country. Part of the reason is that in other countries, the governments control or negotiate how much drug companies can charge for their products. But not the U.S.

It is especially bothersome that Medicare is prevented from negotiating prices with drug companies. Senior citizens are the most likely to be using prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, and they see the costs creeping up and up. There have been egregious examples of pharmaceutical companies jacking up prices simply with little logical explanation.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced recently that he is reintroducing a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices. The Prescription Drug and Health Improvement Act could save the federal government up to $24 billion. The Veterans Administration and Medicaid already negotiate with the drug companies. Why not Medicare?

The legal barriers are there for a simple reason — because big drug companies spend a lot of money lobbying for those barriers, and contributing to the campaigns of members of Congress who vote for them.

Any senior citizen who has had to choose between paying for their prescriptions and buying groceries, or paying their rent, will tell you Franken’s bill is a good idea.