Reps seek direct talks with drug companies

Feb. 27, 2006 at 4:20 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Two Illinois representatives called for giving the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to negotiate on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.

At a Washington news conference Monday, Reps. Rahm Emanuel and Jan Schakowsky, both Democrats, cited a study indicating if Medicare negotiated directly with drug companies, enough money could be saved to fully fund the Medicare prescription drug program for seven years without any contributions from beneficiaries.

"If Medicare directly negotiated with the pharmaceutical companies -- like the Veterans Administration does and foreign countries do -- the potential savings are so large that it would be enough to fully fund the entire drug benefit," Emanuel said.

Emanuel noted in 2001, the federal government negotiated directly with Bayer for Cipro for government workers who may have been exposed to anthrax. The negotiations reduced the price of the $4.67 table to 95 cents.

"Beneficiaries deserve a uniform plan that allows Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies to keep prices low," Schakowsky said.

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