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Kucinich Bill Would Replace Medicare Part D, Allow Purchase of Drugs from Abroad

By Danielle Parnass, CQ Staff

August 7, 2008 -- Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Ohio, has introduced legislation (HR 6800) that would attempt to lower drugs costs by replacing the current prescription drug plan created by the 2003 Medicare overhaul law (PL 108-173).

The bill would allow patients to purchase drugs from an approved list of foreign countries, require Medicare to use its purchasing power to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry, and impose limits on prices drug companies can charge if a drug's research and development was financed by taxpayers.

This bill also includes provisions that call for no premiums, co-pays or deductibles for drugs required by Medicare beneficiaries.

"The privatized drug plan has been given a chance and, as predicted, it has failed," Kucinich said in a release. "There is no reason for us to keep throwing money at a bad idea when we know we can save taxpayers billions of dollars and give seniors the medication they need."

Several Democratic lawmakers have advanced the idea of requiring Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. And some Republicans as well as Democrats have argued that Medicare should import drugs at lower prices.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee release an analysis in July that found that pharmaceuticals covered under Medicare Part D, which is administered through private insurance companies, costs 30 percent more than those provided through Medicaid, which is done through the government, according to the release.

"This is a common sense bill," Kucinich said. "Medicare beneficiaries . . . want a plan that will not drive them into bankruptcy."

A study in December by Harris Interactive found that 87 percent of beneficiaries reported they were happy with their Part D plans, and 75 percent said it has helped them save money on prescription drugs, according to a statement by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

About 90 percent of Medicare patients have prescription drug coverage through Part D, employer plans supported by Part D or through other sources, AHIP said.

"The Part D program has proven to help seniors get access to the prescription drugs they need while holding down costs for beneficiaries and taxpayers," said Robert Zirkelbach, an AHIP spokesman.

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