Bipartisan Medicare Bill Would Lower Drug Costs for Seniors

WASHINGTON (CN) – The top two lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee announced a bipartisan bill Tuesday aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

A pill bottle is seen in North Andover, Mass., on June 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The legislation comes from Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden the Republican chair and top Democrat, respectively, of the committee. Grassley and Wyden said the legislation will get consideration in the committee later this week.

“Passing these reforms, especially those that will affect some of the most entrenched interests in Washington, is never easy,” Grassley and Wyden said in a joint statement Tuesday. “But Americans are demanding action and reform is long overdue. We’re looking forward to working with our colleagues on the Finance Committee and with other committees in Congress to pass this prescription drug pricing overhaul very soon.” 

The bill would make changes to how drug companies report the prices of their drugs to the U.S. government and would require companies to pay a rebate to Medicare if their prices rise more quickly than inflation. Under the new legislation, drug companies would need to justify any price increases to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation would also make changes to the Medicare prescription drug program, one of which would involve an out-of-pocket maximum at $3,100 beginning in 2022 for people enrolled in Medicare Part D.  

Grassley and Wyden say the bill saves money for both the federal government and beneficiaries. Citing a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the sponsors say that, over the next 10 years, the bill will save $100 billion for the Medicare and Medicaid programs, while also slashing $5 billion off of premiums for individual participants.

Matt Eyles, president of the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, praised the bill, particularly its provision putting a cap on the amount people enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug program would spend on their medications in a year.

“We applaud the committee for coming together in a bipartisan way and we are encouraged by their efforts to advance policies that could save Medicare beneficiaries thousands of dollars a year while seeking to limit the impact on Part D premiums and taxpayer costs,” Eyles said in a statement Tuesday.

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