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CU Testifies Curbing Drug Costs is Key to Medicare Success

For immediate release
July 17, 2003
Liz Rose or Gail Shearer
(202) 462-6262

Consumers Union Testifies Curbing Drug Costs is Key to Medicare Success

Washington, DC — Gail Shearer, Director, Health Policy Analysis at Consumers Union, testifies today before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, House Committee on Government Reform on the importance of including strong provisions to curb prescription drug costs as part of Medicare legislation. She suggests that proposals to curb prescription drug costs should appeal to Members regardless of whether their preferred method of providing coverage is to expand the role of the private marketplace or to rely on an expanded role of the government.
The rapid growth in prescription drug expenditures, combined with modest Medicare prescription drug benefit in the legislation under consideration, create a troubling reality for Medicare beneficiaries: if prescription drug expenditures continue to increase at the pace that they have increased for the past five years, many Medicare beneficiaries will find that their out-of-pocket costs in the year 2007 are actually higher than they are today, even though they have “coverage.”
Shearer will testify before the subcommittee that Congress should consider steps to ensure that the prescription drug marketplace better serves all consumers – not only those fortunate enough to have prescription drug coverage or the means to pay the high prices charged for medicines that can save lives and dramatically improve the quality of life. The testimony will urge Congress to shape options this year and in future years that will allow all consumers to afford the medications that they desperately need.
Shearer states in her testimony: “If our nation could cut the rate of growth of these expenditures, we would create a win for consumers and a win for taxpayers. If we fail to rein in the growth of expenditures, any new Medicare prescription drug benefit will be hard-pressed to provide meaningful relief to Medicare beneficiaries, whose out-of-pocket costs will continue to grow. Their expectations that a new benefit will provide relief will not be met.”
Some of the cost-cutting steps outlined in her testimony include:
· Put the full purchasing power of the federal government to work negotiating on behalf of consumers and taxpayers.
· Encourage the purchase of medicines that are the most cost-effective.
· Consider adopting strategies that have been successful in other countries and states to curb expenditures without sacrificing quality.
· Speed generics to the marketplace.
For a complete copy of the testimony and the report Skimpy Benefits and Unchecked Expenditures: Medicare Prescription Drug Bills Fail to Offer Adequate Protection for Seniors and People with Disabilities go to www.consumersunion.org