Senate Rejects Drug Plan for Seniors

Aug 01, 2002

The Senate rejected a last-ditch effort to break a five-year deadlock on new prescription drug coverage for older Americans, the Washington Post reports. The approach, sponsored by Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), fell short in a 50 to 49 vote. Instead, senators adopted modest strategies to reduce drug expenses for Americans of all ages.

They voted 78 to 21 to change patent laws to make it more difficult for brand-name drug manufacturers to obstruct competition from lower-priced generic medicines. The bill also would allow U.S.-made drugs to be imported back from Canada, where the government controls drug prices. The House, which passed a significantly different version of prescription drug coverage in June, is considering these ideas but has not adopted either.

Senators of both parties vowed to continue the quest for drug coverage when Congress returns from its August recess. But key Senate aides say it is improbable the parties can resolve their disagreements and find common ground with the House.

Moderator Comment: Is a Medicare prescription drug plan needed? What elements should be included to avoid compromising the health of consumers or retail businesses?

Politics, we’ve heard, is the art of compromise. Unfortunately,
the lawmakers in Washington do not seem capable of negotiating a deal on a prescription
drug plan that is acceptable to anyone.

Here are a few points we believe should be included in
any final resolution on this matter.

  1. It should
    be enacted into law to begin assisting needy seniors as soon as possible.

  2. Consumers should be permitted to select where they
    purchase prescriptions without restrictions or penalties.

  3. Consumers should have full access to the medications
    they need.

  4. Programs should be developed to increase the dialogue
    between consumers and pharmacists. Adding third-party benefits managers simply
    adds layers that aren’t needed.

  5. Retailers should not have to bear the cost of implementing
    the program.

Anderson – Moderator

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