MURKOWSKI COMMENTS ON MEDICARE PART D VOTE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today offered the following comments following her vote on S.3, The Medicare Drug Bill.
“Far too many seniors throughout Alaska know of the difficulties of finding a provider who will accept Medicare. Alaskans are waiting weeks for appointments and emergency rooms have lines out the door. Many go without care entirely. The government has already proven ineffective at negotiating Medicare reimbursement rates that benefit Alaska seniors and provide access to healthcare. Given this reality, it is unlikely that government would be any more effective in negotiating drug prices while continuing senior’s access to a robust formulary.
“Under both Democratic and Republican led Congresses, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that any possible savings to seniors from government negotiations would be minor at best. The CBO, a nonpartisan entity responsible for providing Congress with objective and timely analyses to aid in economic and budgetary decisions on the wide array of programs covered by the federal budget, reported in an April 10, 2007 letter that ‘the impact on Medicare’s overall drug spending would likely be limited.’
“In fact, the only way to possibly reduce prescription drug costs for seniors would be to severely limit their choice and access to formularies. Some have pointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) drug benefit as a model to follow. This is a flawed, ‘apples to oranges,’ comparison. Of those eligible for coverage under the VA plan, roughly 30% have chosen to enroll in Medicare Part D in order to have access to the medications they need. By offering flexibility in drug choices, through Medicare Part D a senior can walk into their local pharmacy to have their prescription filled. With just VA coverage, 75% of prescriptions are filled by mail order. Medicare Part D plans can choose from over 4,300 drugs for their formularies. By contrast, the VA Health system formulary covers less than 1,300 drugs - many of which are relatively old.
“I agree that we must reduce the costs of prescription drugs for seniors. But we must do so in a way that neither severely limits their access to vital medications nor places an undue burden on them to find the most cost effective ways to fill their prescriptions.”