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Democrats: GOP prescription drug bill too weak

Democrats: GOP prescription drug bill too weak

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two Democratic senators called Saturday for Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare and lower drug costs for all Americans.

Earlier this month, Senate Democrats and House Republicans unveiled competing election-year proposals to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare, the federal health care plan for the elderly and disabled.

But during the Democrats' weekly radio address, Sens. Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said that the Republican plan, while cheaper, just isn't good enough.

Both parties are divided over the scope and size of proposed benefits, including how much the government should pay and how much of the reduced drug cost seniors should shoulder. Lawmakers have said they want Congress to pass a measure before November's elections.

On May 1, two Senate Democrats -- Bob Graham of Florida and Zell Miller of Georgia -- offered a plan to add prescription-drug coverage to Medicare that would cost up to $425 billion over 10 years. Backers of a GOP proposal said their plan is designed to cost less than $350 billion over 10 years.

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But Carnahan and Stabenow said that the Republican plan would force a senior with a $5,000 per year prescription drug bill to pay nearly 90 percent of it.

"We must give our seniors an effective prescription drug plan as part of Medicare," Sen. Carnahan said. "And the Republican plan simply isn't good enough."

Stabenow added, "We believe we need to tackle this problem with the same sense of urgency felt by our seniors who are forced to choose between medicine and food."

Stabenow criticized drug companies for taking advantage of large U.S. subsidies and tax breaks for research and development, while selling drugs at high prices to the general public.

The senator recommended allowing individual Americans or pharmacies to buy U.S.-made drugs from Canada, where prescription drug prices are significantly less.

"These drugs meet all FDA requirements for manufacturing, safety and purity," Stabenow said.

She also criticized drug companies for spending excessively on advertising and promotions, instead of targeting more money for research and development.

"We need to encourage drug companies to spend more on medical research than market research," Stabenow said.

Carnahan said some Democrats also would like to close loopholes in patent laws that allow drug companies to keep some less expensive generic drugs off the market.




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