HHS's Leavitt: no price controls for us, thanks

With the Democrats set to take over Congress in January and vowing to empower Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices directly with companies, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said: Thanks, but no thanks. Leavitt told The New York Times direct negotiation of drug prices, forbidden under the Medicare Modernization Act as currently written, would wreck the drug benefit. “Democrats say they want the government to negotiate prices,” said Leavitt. “What they really want is government-run health care.” Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has vowed to pass legislation allowing government price negotiations within the first 100 hours after Democrats assume control of the House. Pelosi and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Democrats’ No. 2, have sponsored legislation that would create one or more government-run Medicare plans to run alongside the private plans and require HHS to negotiate prices for it. Leavitt, echoing a post-election PhRMA release, noted that the private plans are already in large-scale negotiations with drug companies, and that beneficiaries of the program are reaping deep discounts. “It’s the magic of the market,” said Leavitt. “To assume that the government, in our genius, could improve on this belies the reality of a complex task.” In an editorial, The Times opined: “Democrats should give it to him anyway.”