WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 13, 2003) — Last night, the Senate Finance Committee, by a 16-5 vote, passed Medicare drug coverage legislation. Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) President Carl B. Feldbaum issued the following statement in response:
"The Senate has taken the first step toward implementing important and necessary Medicare reform. As part of this comprehensive legislation to establish a new drug benefit for the nation's elderly and disabled populations, the Senate has also taken action to protect patient access to innovative drugs and biologics currently covered under Medicare's Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS). Many of those products are used to treat thousands of patients with such diseases and conditions as cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and arthritis.
"The Medicare bill passed by Senate Finance yesterday features an important provision that would do three things to protect patient access to drugs and biologics offered in the hospital outpatient setting. First, it would establish a payment floor for OPPS-covered drugs in 2004 and 2005 from which product reimbursement rates could not drop. Secondly, the measure would authorize a study in the interim to obtain more accurate acquisition and handling cost information, which could be used to base reimbursement rates. Lastly, it would prevent the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from using its 'functional equivalence' policy in the future as a basis for setting product reimbursement rates.
"Although Congress is several weeks away from passing final Medicare reform, BIO is encouraged by the strong bipartisan support that has been demonstrated in working to protect existing medical benefits already available to Medicare patients as legislators strive to develop a larger drug coverage benefit. We will continue to work with the Senate and the House of Representatives to ensure that Medicare patients continue to have access to the best medicines that the biotech industry has to offer."
BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.