Cortez Masto, Klobuchar co-sponsor bill to let Medicare negotiate drug prices

kaiser poll
Kaiser Family Foundation
kaiser poll
Kaiser Family Foundation

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto announced Monday that she and fellow Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have introduced legislation authorizing the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices.

“Skyrocketing prescription drug costs are restricting Nevada’s seniors from accessing and affording their medicine,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “This legislation allows the largest purchaser of prescription medications, Medicare, to negotiate drug prices and to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the rising prices of prescription drugs. Congress must work together in a bipartisan way to ensure that seniors in Nevada, and across the country, can afford the medications they need.

Legislation passed during the George W. Bush administration included a “non-interference clause,” under which the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicaid and Medicare, “may not interfere with the negotiations between drug manufacturers.”

In other words, individual private plan providers within Medicare can negotiate prices, but government can’t.

Critics for years have attempted to change the law to allow the government to negotiate prices, arguing that not only would it contain prices for Medicare recipients, but help bring down drug prices throughout the health care system. Opponents contend that if the government uses the size of the Medicare market to leverage lower prices, pharmaceutical company revenue would decline, and that would stifle investment in new drugs.

Polling has found overwhelming public support for allowing the government to negotiate drug prices.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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