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Commentary

Drugstore Cowboys
The Dallas Morning News, 11-21-06

This Dallas Morning News editorial explains why giving the government the power to negotiate drug prices in the Medicare drug benefit is a bad idea—for the government and for the industry.

Giving the feds the power to negotiate drug prices for seniors would effectively cede control of the pharmaceutical industry to Washington. While the government negotiates drug prices for Medicaid patients and veterans, the enormous Medicare portfolio of 39 million beneficiaries would give the bureaucracy a veto over drug companies.

That's more power than a domestic agency like the Department of Health and Human Services should possess, and President Bush is right to oppose it. We understand why the Pentagon should have such a say over defense contractors; that industry is vital to our national security. Drug companies don't rise to that threshold.

Better to let private insurance plans continue to negotiate prices. They haven't always been able to get the upper hand, but allowing the various players in the private sector to go head–to–head is better than government control. For instance, prices could go down if pharmaceutical companies were dealing with Washington, but so could profits set aside for research and development.

When congressional Democrats press for this change next year, remember they're pushing for much more than lower prices. They're seeking to move the line where government should stop and the marketplace should start.



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