Journalism in the Public Interest

Health Care

Discussion: Why Medicare Wastes Billions on Name-Brand Drugs

Yesterday, we published an investigation into how Medicare's popular drug program has failed to rein in medical providers who heavily prescribe pricey, name-brand drugs, instead of cheaper generics. Part D has wasted billions in its eight-year history – even though other federal agencies, and some private health plans, have regulations in place that encourage the use of generics and cut costs. 

In contrast, Medicare’s low-income subsidy encourages name-brand prescribing by keeping co-pays so low that there's little incentive to use generics. President Obama has proposed a fix in his budget, but Congress has declined to take it up. 

The VA and the military, as well as insurers like Kaiser Permanente, have had success encouraging the use of generic drugs. So why hasn't Medicare tried similar tactics? What kinds of limits could the agency place on doctors' prescribing, and why hasn't it yet? Do name-brand drugs really have an advantage over generics? 

Join reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber today at 1 PM E.T. to ask your questions in a live discussion, in partnership with Digital First Media. The chat will happen at this URL. Please feel free to leave your questions in advance. If you can't make it, there will be a transcript of the chat on this page afterwards

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