Jacob Goldstein at the Wall Street Journal Health Blog reported Friday:
It was dueling reports yesterday on Capitol Hill, as Democrats argued that Medicare is paying way too much for prescription drugs and Republicans countered that the spending is on target.
Henry Waxman, chairman of the House oversight committee and a longtime critic of the Medicare Part D drug benefit, … released [a] report, which looked at drug costs for so-called “dual eligible” patients whose drug coverage was switched from Medicaid to Medicare in 2006. The report found that Medicare Part D pays 30% more for drugs than Medicaid, a discrepancy worth more than $3.7 billion for drugmakers in 06 and 07.
Not to be outdone, the Republicans on the committee come back with their own report, arguing that the comparison isn’t a meaningful one. “Of course a statutory mandate that the Medicaid program pay below-market prices produces below-market acquisition costs for that particular government program,” they point out.
The immediate issue the reports raise is whether Medicare should be allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices. They currently can’t, and Republicans (John McCain excepted) want to keep it that way.
What’s amusing — actually, infuriating, but we like to channel our anger into amusement to reduce our chances of an early ulcer — is how opponents of negotiation try to position the issue as the government trying to pay “below-market” prices. As if the big pharmaceutical companies are operating in a free, open, competitive marketplace, where “market prices” are fair and — basically — what prices “ought” to be.
What hooey! It’s such hooey that I’m even annoyed — check that, amused — that Jacob Goldstein used the term “pointed out” to describe the Republicans’ argument. Rather than a more accurate descriptor, such as “blathered,” “BSed” or “said smiling as a Big Pharma lobbyist handed them another suitcase full of cash.”
Let’s get this clear once and for all. WE DO NOT HAVE A FREE MARKET FOR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS IN THIS COUNTRY. There’s no such thing as “market prices,” or by extension, “below-market prices.” We have, instead, the artificially inflated, unfairly protected prices that Congress and the FDA allow big pharmaceutical companies to charge.
The feds enforce this ridiculously unfair pricing system by:
- Awarding and extending patents for drugs that do not merit patents — thus giving pharmaceutical companies monopolies that allow them to charge whatever they want.
- Forbidding competition from outside the U.S. — supposedly on safety grounds, when the reality is that many “U.S.” drugs are made in China or who knows where.
- Doing basically whatever else the Big Pharma cabal tells them to do.
It pays well, after all.