Saturday, June 20, 2009
Drug industry gives in on costs while facing push for national health insurance
News out of Washington that drug manufacturers have agreed to offer $80 billion in discounts on prescription drug discounts to Medicare recipients shows how fearful the U.S. medical establishment have become that President Barack Obama and his administration will succeed in getting a national health insurance plan through Congress. "The agreement reached today to lower prescription drug costs for seniors will be an important part of the legislation I expect to sign into law in October," Obama said today in announcing the deal, which will help close a gap in Medicare drug coverage, according to the Reuters international news service. Under the Medicare drug plan, recipients have no coverage for expenses between $2,700 and $6,154. coverage, Reuters said. "The existence of this gap has been a great injustice that has placed a great burden on many seniors," Obama said. The deal was negotiated between Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a leading industry association. Baucus also is leading a panel drafting healthcare reform legislation, Reuters said. The momentum toward national health coverage is so strong that even the industry association endorsed it after the agreement was announced. "This commitment to support legislation that will help close the coverage gap reflects our ongoing work with Congress and the Administration to make comprehensive health care reform a reality this year," the group said in a statement, according to Reuters. The developments, including a recent national poll indicated U.S. residents support health care reform by an overwhelming margin, are far different than the reaction that greeted President Bill Clinton's universal health coverage plan in 1993. Business groups, doctors and the insurance industry lined up with Congressional Republicans to kill the Clinton plan without a vote. But Democrats hold majorities in both houses of Congress this time around. Universal health care proposals still draw opposition from Republicans and some Democrats, however, because of the cost, which has been estimated at $1.6 trillion.