Medicare would get power to negotiate what it pays for pricey medications

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Patients face ever-growing exposure to the cost of revolutionary new medications. Now, President Barack Obama's budget has reopened the debate on using the government's buying power to squeeze drug makers for lower prices.

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Obama's budget, released Monday, calls on Congress to let the secretary of Health and Human Services negotiate prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries for high-cost drugs and for biologics. Biologics are derived from natural substances, and include some of the latest cancer treatments.

The budget says the administration is deeply concerned with rapidly growing prices for such drugs.

Drug companies were allies in Obama's struggle to pass his health care overhaul.

But now it's the insurance companies that are helping put the law's benefits into place for consumers, and they're complaining loudly about drug prices.