Langevin Repeats Call for Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

Jun 12, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–Congressman Jim Langevin today signed an online petition calling on Congress and the President to enact a prescription drug benefit through Medicare and take immediate steps to make drug prices more affordable.  The website, www.fairdrugprices.org, was launched today at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Last July, Langevin released a study he commissioned that compared prescription drug costs for uninsured Rhode Island seniors to the prices of the same drugs in foreign countries.  The study found that Rhode Island seniors pay, on average, 78% more for the most commonly used prescription drugs than seniors in other industrialized nations such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

“For two years now, even before I was elected to Congress, I have been calling for a prescription drug plan under Medicare,” said Congressman Langevin.  “Prescription drugs are essential to quality health care, and we cannot promote good health if seniors are simply unable to afford these critical medications.  It is past time for Congress to tackle this problem that is placing millions of Americans at risk.”

Seniors and people with disabilities who rely upon Medicare are forced to spend thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars on medication each year because the government-financed health care program lacks prescription drug coverage.  These prices are expected to triple in coming years.

Seniors account for 43 cents of every dollar spent in the US on prescription drugs.  Medicare beneficiaries spend, on average, more than $1,000 per year out-of-pocket on prescription drugs, yet 27% of Medicare beneficiaries do not have any prescription drug insurance.  

Drug prices continue to rise well above the rate of inflation, hitting the millions of Americans without drug coverage the hardest. From 1997 through 2001, national spending on prescription drugs rose almost 20 percent each year. 

“A prescription drug benefit through Medicare is the best way to help seniors get the prescription drugs they need,” said Langevin.  “It will use the power of Medicare's 40 million consumers to negotiate better prices from the drug companies, which will make drugs more affordable and reduce the cost of the program.”

Langevin is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1400, The Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act of 2001, which would require pharmaceutical companies to sell their products in the United States at no more than the average price they charge in foreign countries.  Rhode Island seniors would save approximately 40 percent on their prescription drug costs if this legislation were law today.

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