PARKERSBURG - Senate Democrats including Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia have proposed a bill reducing Medicare Part D drug costs and saving more than $112 billion by eliminating allowing drug companies to charge Medicare higher prices for some prescription drugs.
The savings can go to reduce the deficit without drastic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid benefits proposed by the Republicans, according to Rockefeller.
"No one, and particularly our seniors, should have to choose between life's necessities and the medicines they need. We need to do everything possible to responsibly reduce our deficit, but we can't do it on the backs of some of our most vulnerable citizens," Rockefeller said. "Rather than dismantling Medicare and Medicaid, we can reduce the deficit by over $112 billion by eliminating a taxpayer-funded windfall for drug companies."
The Medicare Drug Savings Act of 2011 eliminates the special deal for drug manufacturers allowing them to charge more certain drugs and require that prescription drug manufacturers to pay rebates to those people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, known as dual eligibles, and other low-income seniors.
The act could reduce the deficit, saving taxpayers $112 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Similar proposals were included in the recommendations from the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and from the president for deficit reduction.
Brand-name drug manufacturers paid a dual drug rebate for beneficiaries in Medicare and Medicaid until the new Medicare drug program was established and companies no longer had to provide the rebates. It resulted in windfall profits for prescription drug manufacturers, Rockefeller said.
Cosponsors include Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Barbara Boxer of California, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Al Franken of Minnesota. A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California, John D. Dingell of Michigan, Sander Levin of Ohio, George Miller of California, Pete Stark of California and Rob Andrews of New Jersey.
In the meantime, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is encouraging residents to vote for the Alpine Theater in Ripley in the This Place Matters Challenge sponsored by the National Trust For Historic Preservation. The competition allows communities across the country to compete through photos and stories for money to save a place that matters to them.
The theater operated by Main Street Ripley was reopened in 2003. It is the only site in West Virginia in the contest among 100 contestants.
"I just voted for Main Street in Ripley," Manchin said in a Youtube video. "The Alpine Theater in Ripley has been a mainstay for many, many years."
On the House of Representatives side, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing on the coal ash bill introduced by Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va. H.R. 1391 prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste under the Solid Waste Disposal Act.