LA Has Chance to Lead Prescription Drug Revolution

Published on

KPCC 89.3FM (Pasadena, CA)

The following commentary by FTCR president Jamie Court, was broadcast on KPCC 89.3 FM in Pasadena, CA on Wednesday, May 4th, 2005. (Click here to listen to the audio of the commentary.):
The bigger the buyer, the cheaper the price. It’s a simple principle of capitalism.

Costco use its members’ bulk buying power to get cheaper toilet paper, gasoline and medicine too. So why not the city of Los Angeles?

You see, the same prescription drugs we buy in America cost 60 to 70 percent less in Canada, Mexico, France and England. These and most other developed nations are like Costco; they get the lowest price because they have the negotiating power to buy in bulk for every resident.

If the City Council does the right thing, Los Angeles will be on its way to becoming the only city in the country that negotiates price breaks from drug companies on behalf of its residents. NassauCounty, New York has such a plan and, with roughly a third of LA’s population, its residents are already saving 20 percent.

The “LA Rx” program would allow any Angeleno to pay a small annual fee and receive a discount card that would be accepted by pharmacies throughout the city for discounted drugs.

Who would join? Medicare recipients not served by the gaps in President Bush‘s prescription drug plan. The uninsure. And insured patients whose HMO or insurer is forcing them to pay more and
more for drugs. Employers could join the purchasing program on behalf of their workers. Hospitals and even health insurers could join to save too.

Since the operating principle is “the bigger the buyer the better the price,” backers are looking to include the city employees’ workers compensation program, and County residents.

Los Angeles has a unique opportunity to lead an “Affordable Prescription Drug Revolution” in cities across the country. The city council should seize it. For far too long we’ve relied on employers and insurers to negotiate health care benefits for us. It’s high time local governments helped patients get together to get the best prices. What’s government for, if not that?

Consumer Watchdog
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