[JURIST] The US Senate Committee on Finance [official website] has approved a bill which would provide the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services [official website] the authority to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare [JURIST news archive] beneficiaries with drug manufacturers, insurers and pharmacies. The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act [S. 3 materials; House version], which passed in the committee by a 13-8 margin Thursday, eliminates a clause which originally barred the secretary or another government entity from intervening in Medicare Part D price discounting decisions. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) [official website], the author of the bill, has said that the government's limited role in health care pricing had affected the nation's elderly and that the bill was designed to help ensure fair drug prices for seniors.
Republican opponents to the bill have asserted that the measure would have a "negligible effect" on federal health care expenditures, according to Congressional Budget Office [official website] figures, and characterized it as a political maneuver by the Democrats to gain favor for a government-funded health care system with elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries. The committee will send the amendment to the full Senate for consideration next week. AP has more.