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U.S. Senate: No Bargaining Power for Medicare

April 19, 2007

The U.S. Senate has failed to push a bill onto the floor for a vote on an issue that affects just about every senior citizen in the country who uses prescription drugs. The "Medicare Fair Prescription Drug Price Act" fell five short of the 60 votes needed to advance to a full Senate vote. It's a major setback for low-income seniors and a disappointment to AARP, the organization of people age 50+ whose members lobbied hard for the bill's passage. Jason Erskine of AARP Washington says the fight's not over, though.

"There is no amount of money that is going to trump the will of 90 percent of American voters. This issue will come back, and we're going to make sure it happens."

Some federal lawmakers believe open-market competition is a better way to set prescription prices.

Erskine notes that both Washington senators voted in favor of the bill, which would put Medicare on par with the Veterans' Administration, giving it the right to negotiate prescription discounts for 43 million Medicare patients nationwide, with more than 800,000 of them in Washington state.

Chris Thomas/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WA