U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota reintroduced legislation recently to unleash the bargaining power of seniors for a better deal on prescription drug costs.

The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act would allow for Medicare to negotiate the best possible price of prescription drugs to cut costs for nearly 43 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D.

Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and prohibits Medicare from doing so. The bill was introduced with 32 other senators. In the House of Representatives, the bipartisan companion bill is led by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Francis Rooney (R-FL).

“Medicare is one of the largest drug purchasers in the country, but they are banned from negotiating on behalf of the 43 million seniors in Medicare Part D,” Klobuchar said. “My legislation will lift the restriction that prohibits Medicare from negotiating the best possible prescription drug prices so we can increase the affordability of critical medications. American seniors deserve a better deal.”

“This bill allows Medicare – the largest purchaser of prescription drugs – to negotiate directly on behalf of its consumers, effectively using its purchasing power to balance the market power of drug manufacturers and deliver the best deal on behalf of consumers. This will ensure seniors continue to have access to much-needed drugs at a more affordable cost, saving Medicare money and helping keep this essential health program strong,” said George Slover, Senior Policy Counsel, Consumer Reports.

“We the people fund more than $30 billion of biomedical research each year through the National Institutes of Health. We pay far more to support the pharmaceutical industry through insurance and prescription costs. Through the U.S. government we provide tax breaks to prescription drug corporations, and most of all, we give them monopoly power, through patents and marketing exclusivities that allow corporations to block competition and keep prices outrageously high. Under these circumstances, the government has a minimum obligation to negotiate for better prices with the monopolists it creates. The Secretary of Health and Human Services must have the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of America’s seniors,” said Peter Maybarduk, Access to Medicines Group Director, Public Citizen.

“The rising cost of medications is unsustainable and has a profound effect on neurology patients and families. This trend of rising costs is present even when market competition exists and impacts both new revolutionary treatments as well as those that have been on the market for decades. The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act will enable the government to leverage its significant purchasing power to obtain prescription drugs at a more appropriate price, bringing savings to the health care system and consumers,” said Nicholas Johnson, MD, FAAN, board member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for better prices. By harnessing the bargaining power of nearly 43 million seniors, Medicare could negotiate bigger discounts than pharmaceutical companies.