WASHINGTON, June 20 Drug manufacturers have
agreed to offer some $80 billion in prescription drug discounts
for Medicare recipients, an industry official said on Saturday,
key savings as President Barack Obama pushes to overhaul the
$2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.
The companies have agreed to a 50 percent discount for
those elderly and disabled Americans in the Medicare health
insurance program who face a gap in coverage after their drug
costs reach a certain level, known as the "doughnut hole".
"This is a huge amount of money that our companies are
putting up to try to help make healthcare reform possible,"
said an industry official familiar with the negotiations,
declining further identification.
The 10-year deal was negotiated between the Pharmaceutical
Research and Manufacturers of America industry association and
the Senate Finance Committee, which is one of several
congressional panels drafting healthcare reform legislation.
Costs for healthcare has soared faster than the inflation
rate and the Democratic president has pledged to work to curb
those costs as well as find a way to provide coverage to the 46
million uninsured Americans.
The White House has said some $950 billion in cuts have
been found to cover its reform efforts but there are reports
that the costs could reach as much as $1.6 trillion and still
not cover everyone, setting off a fierce debate on how to close
That has given Republicans an opening to attack,
particularly since Americans are growing worried about the
eye-popping record budget deficits facing the country -- more
than $1.8 trillion in fiscal 2009 alone.
It was not immediately clear when a formal announcement of
the Medicare deal would be made. The deal was reported earlier
by The Washington Post.
Spokesmen for the White House and Senate Finance Committee
were not immediately available for comment and a representative
for the pharmaceutical association declined to comment.
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Mohammad Zargham)