Critics are slamming Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley for leading the charge last week that kept the federal government from negotiating bulk prescription drug prices for Medicare. The Veterans Administration can negotiate its prices and reportedly pays 52-percent less for the same drugs Medicare buys for senior citizens. Grassley says he has several reasons for blocking the change in procedure.
First, Grassley says the V.A. plan is flawed because veterans can only get a fraction of the drugs they might need. Grassley says: “Veterans only have access to 23-percent of the drugs that are on the formularies for senior citizens. We don’t want a government bureaucrat standing in the way between a doctor and a Social Security-Medicare person, the same way that they do in the Veterans Administration.”
A report from the group Institute for America’s Future says letting the federal government negotiate drug prices would save Medicare recipients in Iowa 400-million dollars a year. Grassley says the V.A. program provides plenty of evidence for Uncle Sam -not- to go that route with Medicare. Grassley says, “Veterans can join (Medicare) Part D and still stay in the Veterans program and we have about 35-percent of the veterans are also enrolling in the federal Medicare program, which tells you that at least 35-percent of the veterans don’t like the services they’re getting from the V.A. or they wouldn’t get them from Medicare.”
Grassley’s opponents say his actions hurt the taxpayers while helping shield the profits of pharmaceutical giants. Grassley, a Republican, says enacting the change in Medicare policy would bring a number of unwanted ripple effects in how seniors, and everyone else, buy their prescription medications.
Grassley says: “If we did it the way the veterans do it, because they mail out 83-percent of their drugs, it would kill off community pharmacists and we want to preserve community pharmacists. In fact, there’s a requirement in federal law that every plan, meaning these 43 plans in Iowa, every one of them has to have access to community pharmacists.”
He says he also opposed having Medicare mirror the V.A. plan because that might make the situation worse for those men and women who’ve served our country. Grassley says, “Veterans organizations did not want us doing for senior citizens under Medicare what we do for veterans because it would drive up the price of drugs for veterans.” A recent national poll found more than eight in ten Americans surveyed favored government negotiation for Medicare drug prices.