Does It Cost MORE When You Negotiate Medicare Drug Prices, Or LESS? 3 'Centrist' Dems Just Don't Know!
In 2015, Medicare stopped covering penis pumps.
This was in response to a report the previous year that it had been vastly overpaying for penis pumps for the last several years — about $360 per device, well above the market rate. Indeed, a quick Google search shows most regular penis pumps run from about $11-$60, with some very fancy Hydromax models costing in the low to mid $100s. An extremely fancy bionic penis pump costs $237, and that was almost definitely not what Medicare recipients were getting.
Professional Electric Penis Enlargement Pump
The reason for this was because Medicare has to pay whatever a company wants to charge for a pharmaceutical drug or medical device and is not allowed to negotiate prices the way any other entity would be able to. But rather than fix that, Congress just straight up banned Medicare from covering penis pumps in particular — which was actually kind of a crappy thing to do, because sexual health is important to overall health.
A Gallup poll conducted this June found that 97 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans think that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical and medical device companies. It is hard to find policies that universally popular in a country that is so divided. This is probably because most people basically understand that only suckers pay the asking price.
Thus, one of the most popular provisions of the Democrats' Build Back Better Act is a measure that would allow Medicare to negotiate these prices, allowing us to do better things with that money than overpay for shit. Or, rather, it was, until three centrist Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee all but tanked it.
Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) joined Republicans in voting against leadership-backed drug pricing language at the end of a three-day House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of the sweeping package. The 29-29 tie vote meant the provision could not advance.
And I haven't gotten to the part that will make you want to endlessly scream into an abyss yet!
"I support many of the proposals being considered this week, but I do not support advancing policies that are not fiscally responsible and jeopardize the bill's final passage," Rice said in a statement.
Yes. Saving almost $500 billion is not "fiscally responsible." Because "fiscally responsible" has nothing to do with actually being "fiscally responsible" and everything to do with policies that help the rich at the expense of everyone else. I would love to know Rice's position on using coupons or shopping at discount stores. Is that okay? Am I being horrifically fiscally irresponsible by paying only $120 for an $800 sweater at Marshall's instead of paying regular retail? (I mean, yes, kind of, but it's a really cute sweater and I will wear it all the time.)
Or what about BJ's Wholesale Club or Costco. Where people pay less for things because they are buying in bulk? Because that's really the most direct example. Medicare, for all intents and purposes, is buying drugs and medical devices in bulk. And not only are they not getting a discount, not only are they paying retail, they are sometimes paying more than retail. Who the hell would pay for a membership at BJ's or Costco if they had to buy stuff in bulk for more than it costs in regular stores? Probably no one but Kathleen Rice, queen of "fiscal responsibility."
If Rice's nonsense didn't make you scream, the response from PHRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying arm, just might.
The House markups on health care demonstrate there are real concerns with Speaker Pelosi's extreme drug pricing plan and those concerns are shared by thoughtful lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
I suppose by "thoughtful" they mean "thoughtful of the desire of pharmaceutical executives to continue being outlandishly rich" and not the usual meaning of the term.
All is not entirely lost though. Democrats are looking at other ways to include the extremely popular provision, either through the House Ways and Means Committee, which voted in favor of the provisions on Wednesday and shares jurisdiction over health policy, or through the Rules Committee putting it back into the bill before floor debate begins.
One of the arguments that the three centrists have been pushing is that the government not overpaying for pharmaceutical drugs will "stifle innovation" in the pharmaceutical industry and then we'll just never ever have any new drugs again — a theory thoroughly debunked by a report by the the House Oversight and Reform Committee back in July.
Even without Medicare overpaying for drugs and medical devices, US taxpayers have funded every new pharmaceutical drug for a decade — and what we get in return is that we pay more for those drugs than people in other countries pay. For instance! Nearly all of the research on the HIV prevention drug Truveda was funded by US taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health. However, it costs $1600-$2000 a month here and in European countries it is mostly under $100, due to allowing generics and being able to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies.
Now, again, it's been proven that when we overpay for pharmaceuticals, it goes directly in the pocket of pharmaceutical company executives, but if they need money for research and development, they can ask for that money separately rather than simply including it in the price of drugs. That way, we can all know for sure that it's going where it's supposed to be going, which would be the literal definition of being "fiscally responsible."
It should come as no major surprise that all three of those who tanked the Medicare negotiations provision, Scott Peters in particular, got sizable donations from the pharmaceutical industry last year.
I understand that some politicians really feel like they need that money, particularly in states without clean/publicly funded elections. But what they also need to understand is that as useful as money is in getting reelected, votes are even better. And if they tank a super popular provision in order to ensure that pharmaceutical companies can keep screwing us, that's going to be a thing they'll have to deal with come election time.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse