Another Round-Table Discussion with Concerned Seniors Will Be Held in Wausau on Friday

Over the past week, seniors from across the state have gathered to hold round-table discussions on the sweetheart deal Tommy Thompson made with drug companies that made it illegal for the government to negotiate for lower prescription prices, which pushed that extra cost on to seniors and families.

Each of the events drew dozens of seniors and other concerned citizens where they also discussed Secretary Thompson’s plans to turn the safety net that is Medicare into an unsustainable voucher system.

Another such event will take place in Wausau this Friday; details on that event to follow.

Here are some excerpts from the round-table discussions held in Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee last week and some research on Thompson’s sweetheart deal with the big pharmaceutical companies and plans to voucherize Medicare.
 
In Green Bay on Wednesday:

Retired educator Molly Meyer, Green Bay, said, "Tommy's just not for Wisconsin anymore. After passing his sweetheart deal for the drug companies, Tommy left the Bush administration to go work for a lobbying firm that worked for the very same drug companies."

See local news coverage of the Green Bay event here.


In Milwaukee on Friday:

"I don’t claim to be an expert on what’s best for Wisconsin," Grass Roots South Shore Founder Dale Nook said Friday. "But I sure as heck know it’s not “very, very good” (as Thompson previously described Medicare Part D) for us to have seniors forced into that “donut hole,” where we’re paying more for healthcare while pharmaceutical companies get richer."

Watch video of the Milwaukee discussion here.
 
In Madison on Friday:

Retired nurse and cancer survivor Sara Williams offered her personal opinion of Thompson's actions and the Paul Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it: "Tommy's long-term plan and Ryan's long-term plan are just a scam to give the insurance companies more money," she said, adding that if the voucherized Medicare plan had been in place while she was undergoing cancer treatment, it would have been too much to handle. "I cannot imagine lying on that radiation table day after day thinking about cancer and cost ... (it would have been) a financial burden on my children and to wipe out my retirement while going through cancer treatment would have been devastating."

Watch the Madison discussion here.

Background

Working for George Bush, Tommy cut a sweetheart deal with drug companies, making it illegal for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.  It cost taxpayers $156 billion dollars.

Journal Sentinel Called Thompson “The Administration’s Point Man” On Medicare Part D.  In a story on the bill that created the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported: “Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, the administration’s point man on the issue, said the plan was “very, very good for Wisconsin,” above all because it offers more than $ 25 billion in new payments to rural health care providers nationwide over 10 years.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 11/21/2003]

Medicare Part D Barred The Government From Negotiating Lower Prices For Drugs.  The New York Times reported: “Drugs tend to be cheaper under the Medicaid programs because the states are the buyers and by law they receive the lowest available prices for drugs. But in creating the federal Part D program, Congress — in what critics saw as a sop to the drug industry — barred the government from having a negotiating role. Instead, prices are worked out between drug makers and the dozens of large and small Part D drug plans run by commercial insurers.” [New York Times, 7/18/2006]

House Oversight Committee: Taxpayers Pay 30% More Under Medicare Part D.  The Los Angeles Times reported: “U.S. drug manufacturers are reaping a windfall from taxpayers because Medicare’s privately administered prescription drug benefit program pays more than other government programs for the same medicines, a House committee charged in a report Thursday. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that taxpayers are paying up to 30% more for prescription drugs under Medicare’s privatized Part D program for seniors and the disabled than under the government’s Medicaid program for the poor.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2008]

Thompson campaign Senior Advisor Brian Nemoir, “Acknowledged That The Federal Government Is Prohibited From Negotiating Drug Prices On Behalf Of Medicare Part D Plans.” “When we checked back with Nemoir, he acknowledged that the federal government is prohibited from negotiating drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D plans.” [Politifact,9/4/12]

Thompson campaign Senior Advisor Brian Nemoir “Acknowledged That The Prohibition On The Federal Government Was Done Under Thompson." “Moreover, Nemoir acknowledged that the prohibition on the federal government was done under Thompson.” [Politifact, 9/4/12]

Republican John McCain Criticized Medicare Part D For Prohibiting Drug Price Negotiation.  During debate over passage of the legislation that created the Medicare Part D benefit, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported: “Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of the few conservatives to stick to his principles in opposition to the creation of a major new entitlement program, added that the subsidies to “special interests” such as insurance and drug companies stand in stark contrast to the absence of any means of keeping costs from skyrocketing. In particular, he noted (as did many progressives) a truly bizarre section of the legislation that literally prohibits the government from bargaining over price with the drug companies and other suppliers to beneficiaries. He also noted that this is precisely what enables the Veterans Administration and the core of the Medicare bureaucracy that deals with hospitalization to keep drug prices below what they are in pharmacies for veterans and retired people in hospitals.  It is no accident, McCain said, that the profits of drug companies are officially expected to grow by $9 billion as a result of this protection from having to negotiate with the biggest bulk purchaser of them all.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/30/2003]

Committee On Oversight And Government Reform Found That Medicare Part D Could Save As Much As $156 Billion Over 10 Years If It Paid The Same Prices As Medicaid.  In 2008, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a report which said: “If Medicare Part D paid the same price as Medicaid for all drug purchases, the total savings to the taxpayer over the next ten years could be as much as $156 billion. Beneficiaries could also save up to $27 billion.” [House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, July 2008]

Unlike Medicare Part D, Medicaid Uses It’s Market Power To Require Discounts From Drug Companies In Order To Participate In The Program.  In 2008, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a report on the differences between prescription drug buying through Medicare Part D and Medicaid. “Under Medicare Part D, drug prices are established through negotiations between the private Part D insurers and the drug manufacturers. By contrast, drug prices in the Medicaid program are regulated by the 1990 Medicaid drug rebate law.” The report explained: “Under the Medicaid law, drug manufacturers are required to provide Medicaid significant price discounts as a condition for their participation in the program.” [House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,July 2008]

Report Found Huge Price Differences On Specific Drugs Between Medicare Part D and Medicaid.  In 2008, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a report on the differences between prescription drug buying through Medicare Part D and Medicaid. “For individual drugs, the differences in the prices under the Medicare Part D program and the Medicaid program can be large. For one common antibiotic, the manufacturer charged Medicare Part D insurers almost $10 more per pill than the manufacturer charged Medicaid. The manufacturer of a frequently used anti-convulsant drug provided the Part D insurers with an average discount of less than 3% compared to a 70% discount for Medicaid. The manufacturer of a popular sleep medication provided the Part D insurers with an average discount of less than 10% compared to a 65% discount for Medicaid.” [House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, July 2008]

Thompson made millions working for a lobbying firm that represents drug companies and said ‘We went to Washington to change Washington, and Washington changed us.'

Thompson Received Over $700,000 From The Pharmaceutical Industry Since Leaving HHS.  According to public records and his personal financial disclosures, Thompson made a minimum of $724,100 from the pharmaceutical industry since leaving the Bush administration. [Personal Financial Disclosure, filed 8/13/2007; Personal Financial Disclosure, filed 1/27/2012; Curaxis SEC form S-1/A, 12/8/05; United Therapeutics SEC form DEF 14A, 4/30/2012]

Thompson would repeal prescription drug savings provided to seniors in the Affordable Care Act.  Today, seniors across Wisconsin rely on Medicare, and the program provides coverage for nearly a million Wisconsinites. The Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” used to leave seniors paying thousands of dollars for the medicines they need.  But the health care law is closing the doughnut hole.  Wisconsin seniors have saved millions of dollars and we have begun to close the “donut hole” but now Thompson wants to open it back up and increase out of pockets costs for seniors. Thompson also supports a Congressional Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it and replace it with a voucher that stick seniors with higher health care costs.