Much to pharmaceutical companies’ benefit, Medicare has been barred from negotiating for the lowest drug prices when paying for the Part D prescription drug benefit. This translates to unnecessarily higher costs for both beneficiaries and Medicare. Currently both the House and Senate are looking at various proposals that would give Medicare drug price negotiation power. One is through the reintroduction of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which was reintroduced in the 117th Congress in April 2021 after passing the House in the previous session. This bill, if enacted into law, would lead to a significant reduction in prescription drug costs, and the resulting savings of close to $500 billion would be reinvested into key expansion of Medicare benefits (such as vision, hearing, dental), low-income protections, and Medigap rights expansion. California Health Advocates strongly supports this legislation.
Yet, we’re hearing of misleading and outright false advertisements on TV and on YouTube, stating that insurance companies and Washington bureaucrats “are working together to swipe $500 billion from Medicare to pay for Pelosi and Schumer’s out-of-control spending spree.” The doctor in the ad continues, “They’re calling it Medicare negotiation, but, really, it’s just a way to cut your benefits and no longer pay for lifesaving medicines.” This advertisement, created by 60 Plus American Association of Senior Citizens, a conservative group with big business and profits at heart versus the best interest for older adults, is not true and is spreading false information and fear.
Contrary to what the advertisement is saying, that $500 billion number is not about what will be “swiped” from Medicare, but rather is an estimate of how much the government would save over 10 years if drug price negotiations outlined in H.R. 3 were enacted. That is, the government would be paying pharmaceutical companies $500 billion less for prescription drugs.
And that $500 billion of Medicare savings would be slated to be reinvested into Medicare to add dental, vision and hearing benefits, as well as changes that would result in lower premiums and out-of-pocket drug costs for beneficiaries. These changes would be good for everyone — well, at least for all Medicare beneficiaries, maybe not as much for the profit margins of pharmaceutical companies. And, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, this type of policy change is very popular, as almost 90% of people support the government’s ability to negotiate for lower drug prices.
Join us in fighting misinformation and supporting real change that strengthens the Medicare program, improves its benefits and reduces costs for our country’s Medicare beneficiaries and supports their wellbeing.
Read our partners at Center for Medicare Advocacy’s summary of H.R. 3 to learn more details on how it would reduce drug costs and increase Part D protections for consumers, add dental, vision, and hearing benefits and what those would be, and add more Medigap and low-income protections.