There has been a lot of talk during this health care debate about bending the cost curve. Unfortunately, for the most part, that is all it has been, talk. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is different. He actually has an idea to bend the cost curve on our health care spending. This idea is a bipartisan amendment to allow drug re-importation.
In all the other industrialized countries, they pay a faction of what we do for the same prescription drugs. On average, they spend about half as much per person on drugs. Part of the reason that other countries pay so much less for prescription drugs is due to the fact that their governments help to negotiate the best drug prices for their citizens. The other reason is that they have a parallel trade system in which people in one European country can buy their drugs cheaper from other European countries. Dorgan’s amendment would give the American people this same power to buy these identical, cheaper prescription drugs from other first-world countries.
Dorgan’s bipartisan amendment has been scored by the CBO as saving the federal government $19.4 billion, and American consumers roughly $100 billion over the next decade. (Personally I think the CBO has dramatically underestimated the potential savings from this amendment. I would not be surprised if eventually it saved the American people four to six times as much, but that is a story for another day.)
This projected $100 billion in savings translates to roughly $33 per person per year for every individual in this country. This is how you really bend the cost curve. You do it with a series of small changes that save everyone some money. You do it by adopting dozens of proven ideas that are currently successfully being used in other countries to keep their health care costs so much lower than ours. Of course, Dorgan’s bipartisan, cost-bending amendment (which Barack Obama co-sponsored when he was in the Senate) might not make it into the final bill because it violates Obama’s secret deal with PhRMA. With Obama now fighting against one of the only proven cost-saving ideas offered in this health care reform battle, it makes you wonder how much reform was about bending the cost curve, and how much it was about gaining favor from the big campaign donating industrial lobbies at the expense of regular working class Americans.