Due to skyrocketing prescription medication costs, many Americans are left to make difficult choices between their health and their financial security. Drug prices have risen steadily and dramatically, but the Bush Administration has done nothing to confront the pharmaceutical industry about costs.
Tom Harkin believes Americans have a right to their health. Their tax dollars pay for research and development of prescription drugs, and they should have access to fair drug prices in exchange. He believes Medicare should negotiate for lower prices on behalf of the nation’s 41 million beneficiaries just like the Veterans Administration negotiates fair prices for our veterans. Re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries with safe regulatory systems would be another important step to bringing costs down for all Americans.
Until Americans can go to the pharmacy and get a fair deal, millions will go without lifesaving prescription drugs.
Last year, the Bush Administration had an opportunity to add a real prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Unfortunately, the plan they chose does not allow the government to negotiate for lower drug prices, leaving millions of elderly Americans paying more and getting less. The plan has large gaps in coverage where beneficiaries pay all of their costs out-of-pocket. In addition, the Administration turned over large portions of Medicare to the insurance industry.
Tom Harkin believes Medicare beneficiaries deserve a comprehensive drug plan with access to lower, negotiated prices and no gaps in coverage. He believes privatizing Medicare would put Medicare at risk. HMOs, which routinely put profits before patients, cannot be trusted with Medicare. Medicare can be strengthened without offering a large windfall subsidy to drug companies and HMOs.
Over 40 million Americans are uninsured, with more and more employers shifting health care costs onto employees or eliminating coverage altogether. Higher out-of-pocket expenses force people to choose between their health and their personal finances. The uninsured are less likely to see a doctor, to have access to needed medication or to seek preventive care for chronic diseases.
Tom Harkin believes that uninsured Americans should have access to the Federal Employees Health Benefit plan – the same plan available to members of Congress and their families. These plans are regulated by the government and provide comprehensive care: hospitals, doctors and pharmacy benefits. In a country as wealthy as ours, no American should risk their health because they cannot afford insurance.