Medicare Prescription Part D

Medicare prescription Part D is a program long overdue. When Medicare was created by President Johnson in the 1960s, it didn't include prescription drugs. Over the years, as more and better prescription drugs were discovered and invented and marketed, we understood that to keep people healthy, our parents and grandparents and disabled people needed access to affordable drugs.

For many years, many of us have supported the idea of including prescription drugs in the Medicare plan so seniors could have help in paying for them. When the bill came before us to vote on several years ago, when the Republicans were in control of this body, we wanted to add one provision. The one provision said the Medicare Program could bargain for less expensive, more affordable drugs. Private insurance companies could do the same, but the Medicare Program could offer prescription drugs to seniors on Medicare as one option, and then seniors could make a choice. Do they want to go with a private insurance company? Do they want to go with some other source for their prescription drugs under Medicare? Or do they want to go back to the Medicare plan?

Our thinking behind it is sound, because what we said is: We learned a lesson at the Veterans' Administration. In the Veterans' Administration we learned that to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for the men and women who serve in uniform and are now veterans, our Veterans' Administration bargains with pharmaceutical companies, and they have bargaining power. They buy in bulk. They buy at discount. Our veterans benefit from it. They get the best at the lowest prices, and it is good for them and for taxpayers.

Why can't our seniors under Medicare have the same opportunity? That was the point we wanted to make, a point that said: Medicare should be allowed to bargain bulk discounts, low prices for seniors so we can give them even a better deal than the current program offers. The pharmaceutical companies hate this idea like the devil hates holy water. The notion that they would face competition, that they would have to give bulk discounts, eats right into their profits, their bottom lines, and their CEOs' golden parachutes. They have been spending millions of dollars trying to convince America that this kind of bulk discount, this effort to have bargaining for lower prices, is somehow fundamentally wrong. They have spent a lot of money on it--full-page ads in newspapers, television advertising to try to convince Americans that having some competition when it comes to prescription drugs is plain wrong.