Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
Nine large insurance companies contributed $6.5 million to federal lawmakers since 2000, including $2.5 million while Congress was creating the new Medicare drug benefit in 2003-04, according to a consumers’ group.
The insurers, which include Aetna, Cigna and WellCare, are now among the many companies offering Medicare plans to seniors. The group that slogged through the data says the cash infusion is no coincidence.
“This Medicare drug law is a Thanksgiving feast for the nation’s politically powerful health insurers and drug companies,” said David Fink, with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a nonpartisan advocacy group based in California.
A spokesman for the insurance industry disagreed with the foundation’s assertions, saying consumers are the ones who stand to gain from the Medicare drug plans.
“The fact is, the private sector is delivering the best possible benefit to Medicare beneficiaries, who have never had [drug coverage] before,” said Mohit Ghose, with America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurance companies.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has been a vocal critic of a provision in the Medicare drug act that prevents Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical makers for lower prices. Other government agencies — such as the Department of Veterans Affairs — already negotiate for their recipients. The foundation thinks the same should be done for Medicare.
Information from wire services was used in this report.
Robyn Shelton can be reached at 407-420-5487 or [email protected]