Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has a lot of ideas about how he would transform health care, mainly focused on how the government will use its negotiating power to reduce prices on everything from doctors to hospitals to drugs. However, the details don’t quite work that well.
At a Monday night rally in New Hampshire, the night before Trump swept the elections first Republican primary, Trump expounded on his ideas about how to make health care more affordable for Americans. The Washington Examiner quotes him as saying:
“Because the drug companies have an unbelievable lobby. And these guys that run for office, that are on my left and right and plenty of others, they’re all taken care of by the drug companies. And they’re never going to put out competitive bidding. So I said to myself wow, let me do some numbers. If we competitively bid, drugs in the United States, we can save as much as $300 billion a year.”
There’s one major catch–Americans don’t even spend $300 billion in total on prescription drugs.
Based on the latest data available from 2014, prescription drug spending in the U.S. totaled $297.7 billion, reported the Examiner. While drug spending likely surpassed the $300 billion mark last year, it still would be quite a feat to negotiate out nearly 99% of the cost of prescription drugs.
Trump may have been referencing a more typical liberal idea to allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate directly with drugmakers in order to reduce prescription prices paid by those recipients (and, thus, taxpayers). However, Medicare drug spending was only $78 billion in 2015, no where near the $300 billion savings he says we can save. Estimates by the Congressional Budget Office admit that such negotiation tactics would likely result in only limited savings, mostly focused on a few select drugs.