AARP to track Senate vote on Medicare Rx bargaining bill

Today, AARP will be sending the following letter from CEO Bill Novelli to every member of the U.S. Senate alerting them that the association will be recording the upcoming Senate vote on a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.

According to exit polls, roughly 1 out of every 4 voters in the past election was a member of AARP. "Nearly 90 percent of voting-age Americans believes Medicare should have the power to bargain for lower drug prices. The American people need and deserve to know where their Senators stand on this widely supported issue," said AARP CEO Bill Novelli.

Following is the text of the letter sent by Novelli to Congress: April 13, 2007 Dear Senator:

On behalf of AARP's over 38 million members, we urge you to support S. 3, the Medicare Fair Prescription Drug Price Act of 2007. This legislation will build upon the strong foundation of the Medicare prescription drug law by enabling the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries, increasing transparency, and encouraging greater use of evidence based medicine. Enactment of this legislation is another important step toward further lowering drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.

Since the implementation of the Medicare Part D program -- which AARP strongly supports -- tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries have had access to more affordable prescription drugs. AARP believes we must use all tools to restrain soaring drug prices to ensure continued affordability of the program to both Medicare beneficiaries and all taxpayers. One way to do that is to further strengthen the negotiations that individual plans undertake with drug manufacturers by enabling the Secretary to negotiate on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. This issue enjoys widespread public support, as demonstrated by a recent AARP poll showing 86 percent of individuals -- across all political parties -- support legislation enabling the Secretary to negotiate on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Such negotiating authority will be particularly useful in those cases -- such as the six protected categories and classes of drugs -- for which plans must cover all or most drugs within the therapeutic class, and other areas for which there is limited competition.

The legislation gives Medicare the negotiating leverage granted to private purchasers of prescription drugs by repealing the noninterference language, while at the same time continuing the prohibition against the Secretary requiring a particular formulary. This preserves the competitive nature of the drug benefit and allows private plans to design formularies that best meet the needs of their enrollees. In addition, the legislation would allow Congressional support agencies access to Part D pricing and claims data to ensure better comparative analysis of the discounts and price concessions available to Medicare. Finally, the legislation would encourage plans' own pharmacy and therapeutic committees to use comparative effectiveness information when designing plan formularies.

Older Americans and their families are counting on Congress to do everything possible to help make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible to beneficiaries under the MMA. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact into law secretarial negotiating authority that helps plans further reduce the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.

For your information, our members have also expressed strong interest in knowing how their elected officials vote on key issues that affect older Americans. As part of our ongoing effort to let our members know of action taken on key issues, we will be informing them how their Senators vote when S. 3, The Medicare Fair Prescription Drug Price Act of 2007, comes to the Senate floor. Similar action was taken earlier this year for the vote in the House of Representatives. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, William D. Novelli Chief Executive Officer

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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