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Franken introduces bill to cut prescription drug costs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) has introduced the Prescription Drug and Health Improvement Act to cut prescription drug costs for seniors in Minnesota and across the country by allowing the federal government to negotiate lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries.

"When I travel around Minnesota, I always hear from seniors that they're still paying far too much for prescription drugs," said Franken. "This bill will help make prescription drugs more affordable for Minnesota's Medicare beneficiaries and save taxpayers billions of dollars. This is a common sense measure to cut spending without taking away any vital services."

Franken said his measure would eliminate the prohibition against such negotiations put in place when the Medicare drug benefit was enacted several years ago. Specifically, it empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of all Medicare beneficiaries.

Under current law, drug prices are negotiated directly between pharmaceutical companies and private insurance companies contracted by the government to deliver the drug benefit, thereby preventing HHS from using the leveraging power of the nearly 50 million Medicare beneficiaries to get the best drug prices possible, according to Franken.

Last year, Medicare spent $68 billion on the Part D drug program, and Franken said his bill could save up to $24 billion annually. The legislation would allow Medicare to adopt negotiating tactics used by other federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, where a recent study found that the agency was able to get the 10 most prescribed drugs at costs nearly 50 percent less than Medicare, Franken said.