110th congress, vote #23; House of Representatives #4

Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act

Official Title: To amend part D of title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower covered part D drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.

HR4 Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act
Passed by House Jan. 12, 2007
Not acted upon in Senate

Synopsis: This bill would have required the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who oversees Medicare, to negotiate lower drug prices for Part D, the prescription drug benefit under Medicare.

President George W. Bush threatened to veto the bill, which also was opposed by pharmaceutical companies. "Government interference impedes competition, limits access to lifesaving drugs, reduces convenience for beneficiaries and ultimately increases costs to taxpayers, beneficiaries and all American citizens alike," the White House said in a written statement on the House bill.

Why supporters pushed for this bill

  • Every other developed country in the world negotiates with drug-makers for bulk discounts on prescription drugs. If there is no medical evidence that a new product will provide more benefits to most patients than older (and almost always cheaper) products, governments will refuse to pay more for the "new, new thing" – though they may well agree to cover the drug for those few patients who would benefit.
  • In the U.S., the Veterans' Administration (VA) is allowed to bargain with pharmaceutical companies, and it has already shown that government negotiators can achieve significant savings in the U.S., without depriving patients of needed drugs.
  • Opponents argued that drug-makers need higher payments from the U.S. in order to fund needed research. The bill's supporters pointed out that large pharmaceutical companies now spend more on marketing than on research and development, and in recent years, have brought very few true "breakthroughs" to market.
  • Medicare just cannot afford "runaway inflation" in spending on drugs. Health care for seniors is not the nation's only priority. We also need more money for education, job-creation, the environment, exploring alternative sources of energy ...

Why opponents tried to stop the bill

  • Those who voted against the bill insisted that by paying pharmaceutical companies more, Medicare is providing the resources that drug-makers need to pursue ground-breaking, life-saving research.
  • They also argued that the market, not government, should set drug prices. Government regulation would stand in the way of free market competition.
  • The Veterans Administration has refused to cover some drugs that some patients (and their doctors) feel that they need.

1/12/2007 2:22 PM

Status: House passed 255-170, 10 not voting

More: select a member to see his or her other key health care votes.


Yes (255)

No (170)