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Final Health Care Compromise Near - and "No Imports"

December 17, 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Today is it. In the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to lay out a final compromise for health care reform. Reaching that compromise meant throwing out amendments, like one that would have allowed consumers in Nevada and the nation to purchase less expensive, imported prescription medications. The prescription drug importation amendment, SA 2793, offered by senators Dorgan (D-ND) and McCain (R-AZ), was defeated on a 51-48 vote this week.

Deborah Moore Jaquith, director of communications for AARP Nevada, says this was probably the last shot for any congressional action this session that would allow Americans to buy cheaper meds from Canada and Western Europe.

"We can't understand why. Lowering prescription drug prices for not only their constituents, but also for American taxpayers and for the government, isn't a good thing? We're puzzled by the continuing of the status quo."

President Obama initially favored the amendment, but then joined the pharmaceutical industry in opposing it because the White House feared it might reduce the chances for passage of health care reform in the Senate. Nevada's senators split on the issue: Reid voted in favor of the amendment and Ensign opposed.

While it looks like the Senate won't be approving imported prescription drugs this session, Reid did pledge to end the gap in prescription drug coverage for the millions using Medicare coverage. Moore-Jaquith estimates that would benefit more than 16,000 seniors in Nevada.

"The Senate leadership has said they're committed to closing to closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap - the 'donut hole.' That's good news for folks who take prescription drugs."

It is significant that Senate leadership has made this one of their top priorities, she adds.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV