Responding to popular anxiety over prescription drug prices, the Senate Finance Committee last month approved a bill to restructure the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
The bill is part of broader congressional and administration efforts to address rising health care costs, one in which lawmakers are laying aside partisan differences to seek constructive solutions.
The committee is proposing amendments to the Medicare Part D program, which was created in 2003 and requires modifications to address the changing nature of the prescription drug marketplace.
The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act contains a mix of good and bad ideas for amending the program, which relies on choice and competition to provide prescription drug coverage to 47 million seniors. Medicare Part D is widely popular with beneficiaries and has cost taxpayers far less than initially estimated.
The bill’s good ideas include reworking how the program pays for the costliest drugs, relieving taxpayers of some of these costs, and requiring private prescription drug plans and pharmaceutical companies to assume a greater burden.
The worst idea is one that would introduce federal price regulation into the Medicare Part D program. More on that in a bit. First a look at how the bill proposes to restructure Medicare Part D benefits.