Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from hoste
Date: 13th century
definition: a person held by one party in a conflict as a pledge pending the fulfillment of an agreement
In our previous blog, we questioned what the pharmaceutical industry might be getting from its 'cooperation' in reducing prices for seniors in the Part D Doughnut Hole. In his AARP 'Town Hall Meeting' July 28, President Obama seemed to indicate that while he believed that we could lower prices even more, he failed to explain how. Then he explained how without 'negotiating' with PhRMA, the industry's trade association, the drug manufacturers would 'fight' for every 'cent of profit' they are making...and could make.
What a regrettable state of affairs, an Administration and the U.S. Congress being held hostage by what arguably is the most powerful industry in the world. Unless reform is passed that further enriches the pharmaceutical industry, it will fight reform.
This leads us to ask what other tactics will pharma resort to if it doesn't get its way. And, what price will there be for its 'cooperation'? Already, price negotiation for prescription drugs, and personal importation of medicines from Tier One countries seem to have been kicked to the curb. But the fact remains: There is a proven record of safety and efficacy, as well as affordability of imported medicines providing vital medicines to Americans. Is restricting the ability of those untold numbers of Americans to purchase safe, affordable medicines from pharmacies in Tier One countries to be next, making it a clean sweep for pharma? The U.S. Congress has previously voted to end such questionable activity and most recently, Senator David Vitter (R-LA)has been successful with his introduction of legislation to prohibit such seizures for the next fiscal year. The chances of this being coming out of conference is uncertain. The Senator's office has declined to respond to inquiries about the amendment's prospects, but should it not be retained, the question must be asked, why. This is a legitimate question in light of pharma's success on a number of fronts, all the while claiming to exhibit a spirit of concern about what it does to lower prescription drug prices for Americans (the highest in the world), while holding a club of the threat of higher prices and withdrawal of its 'cooperation' in reaching an agreement.
Excerpts from the President's remarks follow:
Excerpt from opening remarks:
"...And I think for AARP members especially there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who would directly benefit from reduced prescription drug costs if we're able to pass this bill.
And we'll work to close that doughnut hole in Medicare Part D that's costing so many folks so much money. Drug companies, as a consequence of our reform efforts, have already agreed to provide deeply discounted drugs, which will mean thousands of dollars in savings for the millions of seniors paying full price when they can least afford it..."
In response to a question:
Q Hi, this is my first year in the doughnut hole, and it's quite a frightening thing to go through. I have Parkison's so I will be going through it year after year, and it looks like I could last about two years, and then all of my savings will be gone to the doughnut hole. So what do you intend to replace the doughnut hole with?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we want to replace it with prescription drugs that won't force you to use up all your retirement.
When the original Medicare Part D was put forward -- first of all, it wasn't paid for, so it automatically was unstable financially. Then there was an agreement that you couldn't negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available price on drugs. The American people pay about 77 percent more for drugs than any other country -- 77 percent. Almost twice as much as other countries do.
So what we've said is, as part of reform, let's negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies; we'll cover more people -- that means potentially the pharmaceuticals will have more coverage -- or more customers -- but as part of the deal, they've got to start providing much better discounts on their drugs. They've already committed that if the health care reforms pass, they would provide $80 billion worth of discounts. That would be enough to cover about half of the doughnut hole.
So, right off the bat, right now, without further negotiations, the drug companies have already committed that they would reduce -- they would cut in half the costs that folks have to go through when they're in the doughnut hole right now. That's money directly in their pocket that could be in their retirement savings.
I think we can get potentially an even better deal than that, because we're overpaying 77 percent.
But the problem is if we don't get health care reform, the pharmaceutical industry is going to fight for every dime of profits that they're currently making -- and filling that doughnut hole is going to be very expensive because when the Medicare Part D was originally passed nobody put in provisions to pay for -- and so putting even more money into it at a time when Medicare may go bankrupt -- not "go bankrupt," but go into the red 10 years from now, that's a big problem. That's part of the reason why reform is so important.