Members of the Senate Finance Committee voted 13-8 Thursday to approve S. 3, a bill that would let the federal government negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The bill also calls for greater transparency in Medicare prescription plan drug pricing, and it seeks to give doctors and patients more information about the effectiveness of drugs and other medical treatments.
One S. 3 amendment permits the government to share Medicare Part D data with the states.
A second amendment requires that Medicare beneficiaries get information about drug costs at the point of sale.
Senate staffers are predicting S. 3 will come up for a vote on the Senate floor sometime next week.
In January, the House passed a Medicare drug plan bill that would have required the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
Many Republicans have joined pharmaceutical manufacturers in opposing legislation either requiring or permitting CMS to negotiate prices.
Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, says the prescription drug program debate is really about government-run health care programs.
“The issue before the American people is whether we’re going to have health care run out of Washington or whether we’re going to have a system that allows consumers to make those choices,” Leavitt says.
It is not clear whether S. 3 supporters have the 60 votes needed to force opponents to let the bill come up for a vote in the Senate.
Bush said earlier this year, before the House passed its Medicare drug price negotiation bill, that he would veto the bill if it reached his desk.
Although Senate Democrats have softened the negotiation provision in their bill, President Bush said Thursday that the Senate bill is no better than the House bill.