Contact: Mitchell Clark
Senior Communications Associate

July 23, 2014

Advocates, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) Call on Congress for Medicare Drug Savings

Washington, DC—The emergence of blockbuster medicines to treat Hepatitis-C—like Sovaldi, priced at $84,000 for a 12-week treatment or $1,000 per pill—has spurred many advocates and lawmakers to renew longstanding questions about how to secure needed Medicare drug savings. These sky-high prices are likely to limit access to life-saving treatments for those who need them, while also exacerbating budgetary pressures within the Medicare program. Medicare cost growth has slowed significantly in recent years, furthering the program’s long-term sustainability, but Congress can do more to shore up Medicare financing, while also making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors and people with disabilities.

Today Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, co-hosted a telephone press conference with the Medicare Rights Center and Social Security Works, releasing a comprehensive report detailing policy options to lower Medicare drug costs. As a complement to the report, over 71,000 Americans signed a petition calling on Congress to enact policies that would allow Medicare to secure better prices on prescription drugs.

Rep. Waxman has introduced legislation that would save billions of dollars on Part D drugs, and has recently called for hearings on the high cost of Sovaldi. Rep. Waxman said, “It makes no sense that Medicare pays the highest prices for prescription drugs. We improved Medicare Part D in the Affordable Care Act by closing the doughnut hole. Now we should take the next step and enact policies that reduce Medicare drug costs for seniors and taxpayers.”

Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center said, “Some members of Congress want to find Medicare savings by shifting higher health care costs onto retirees and people with disabilities. But the budgets of most people with Medicare are already stretched too thin. Half of all beneficiaries live on annual incomes of $23,500 or less. Congress should enact popular policies that save costs on prescription drugs—not diminish earned Medicare benefits.”

According to Ben Veghte, Research Director of Social Security Works, “Social Security benefits were never intended to go largely toward out-of-pocket health expenses. Yet in 2010, even with Medicare (including prescription drug coverage which took effect in 2006), out-of-pocket health care costs consumed over a third of the average Social Security check of seniors and their surviving spouses. It’s time to pursue common-sense reforms to control Medicare’s costs without placing additional burdens on seniors and people with disabilities.”

Read the report.

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.


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