More on the low-cost prescription drug plan by Chris Van Hollen

In today’s Baltimore Sun, columnist C. Fraser Smith offers his take on U.S. Rep Chris Von Hollen’s bill that would provide inexpensive drugs to lower-income Americans:

People may care as much about the cost of prescription drugs these days as they do about getting a good deal on a car. They’re up against the breathtaking drug costs a lot more often. At least they can talk to the car salesmen. Even if we’re not good at numbers, we probably get a better deal when we haggle. With cars, it’s accepted as the American way.

So, what if we could bargain a little on the cholesterol meds? And what if the state came onto the showroom floor (as it were) to strengthen our hand? Couldn’t hurt. A bill that would have allowed states to intervene on behalf of low-income consumers was offered five years ago by then-Sen. Paul D. Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota. When he was killed in a plane crash, his bill effectively died with him…

Now, though, a measure similar to the one proposed by Senator Wellstone … is pending in the House of Representatives. Maryland’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen is the sponsor. His bill would allow Maryland and all the other states to negotiate reduced prescription drug prices for low-income families – those earning less than three times the federal poverty level of $20,650 for a family of four. Patients would get discount cards for use at the drugstore…

“This is an issue that we can bring a majority of members together on,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “The power of that drug lobby has been diminished since we got a new Democratic majority in Congress.”

It’s a worthy effort, to be sure. But the bill is another palliative, a reflection of the failure of government and industry to find a comprehensive way to contain medical costs, provide insurance for all and keep drug bills from rivaling the monthly car payment.

I’m sure tens of millions of Americans wouldn’t mind a “palliative” — any relief would be better than none.

The real issue is that Big Pharma will soon be swatting Van Hollen like a fly.

911

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