Guest Column: Re: Medicare prescription drug price Negotiations Act of 2007

H.R. 4, which is the number of the above bill, passed the House Jan. 11, by a vote of 255 to 170.

Our local Congressman, Don Manzullo, voted against passage. In an e-mail sent to me in response to one I had sent to Congressman Manzullo in support of passage, he offers the following reasons for voting against the bill.

In a statement regarding the current program, Congressman Manzullo points out that in the 16th Congressional District, 102,049 seniors have obtained coverage through Part D. On average, Part D beneficiaries are saving more than $1,200 annually on their drug costs. I have personal knowledge of a participant who is paying more for their drug needs on the current program.

The Congressman states, “In fact, five independent surveys recently found that more than 80 percent of seniors are satisfied with their benefits.” No mention is made of the authors of the study nor subject matter polled. I am curious as to how many of the 102,049 seniors in the 16th Congressional District were polled. In the District, it is presumed based on the numbers quoted, more than 20,000 seniors are dissatisfied, and an untold number are not saving the $1,200 mentioned.

Quoting his letter again, “Were the government to negotiate prices directly in an attempt to achieve lower prices, access to drugs would likely be restricted. For example, the drug plan run by the Veterans Administration (VA) illustrates how government negotiations restricts access to drugs.” The Congressman insinuates our veterans are receiving substandard medical treatment?

The Congressman states: “The theory behind Part D is that market forces and competition among drug plans, with government oversight, can achieve better results than a government-run program. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the independent actuaries in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services agree that government negotiation will not lead to lower costs for our nation’s seniors.” Individual direct costs might not go down, but what of total costs for medications? The Congressman seems to forget that we all pay taxes, and tax dollars are expended in support of government programs.

Quoting a Jan. 12 statement by AARP CEO William Novelli about H.R. 4: “The opportunity to obtain health and financial security is a fundamental right that all Americans share. Today the House of Representatives took an important step toward making prescription drugs more affordable for millions of people enrolled in the Medicare drug plans by passing H.R. 4. We commend the lawmakers who voted to give Medicare the bargaining power it needs to lower drug prices.” Unfortunately, Congressman Manzullo does not believe in this important step.

Richard Kanak is a resident of Cherry Valley.

From the Feb. 28-March 6, 2007, issue

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