January 12, 2007
House could lift ban on drug negotiations
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON Rep. Zack Space and other area lawmakers, with the
possible exception of Rep. Ralph Regula, plan to support a bill
requiring the government to negotiate Medicare prescription-drug
prices with pharmaceutical companies.
But even if the bill, scheduled to go before the House today, is
approved, it faces opposition from a top Senate Democrat and a
veto threat from President Bush.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is in
charge of crafting Medicare legislation in the Senate, said
Thursday he prefers to allow the government to negotiate prices
but not require it.
Democrats Space of Dover, Tim Ryan of Niles, Charlie Wilson of
St. Clairsville and Betty Sutton of Copley are among more than
190 co-sponsors and supporters of the House bill.
Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, has not said how he will vote.
House Republican leaders warned Thursday that the bill would
lead to fewer choices of drugs in the Medicare program.
The House plan would repeal a prohibition on the federal
government negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical
manufacturers that supply drugs for the Medicare prescription
Democrats running for Congress in the fall made government
negotiation a key issue. They charged that Republicans
prohibited negotiation as a favor to the drug industry. They
also claimed government bargaining would save taxdollars and
allow benefits to expand.
Their position took a hit this week when the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office concluded that the legislation would
have a “negligible” effect on federal spending.
The budget office said competing private plans have a stronger
incentive than the government to hold down prices.
Space said even if the legislation does not reduce costs, “it’s
certainly not going to have any impact where it would increase
“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “I’m optimistic
that it will result in lower prices.”