US Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama has launched

a strong attack on the “skyrocketing profits” of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries which, he says, “are paid for by the

skyrocketing premiums that come from the pockets of the American people.”

Unveiling his proposals for a universal healthcare system to an audience at the University of Iowa on May 29, Sen Obama urged businesses, the medical community and members of both major political parties to work together to find a comprehensive solution to the healthcare affordability crisis. And, he warned: “It’s time to let the drug and insurance industries know that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair.”

The Senator told the meeting that his plan would not only provide all

Americans with high-quality healthcare but also save the average family up to $2,500 each year. This would be achieved, he said, by taking five “long-overdue” steps, namely: reducing costs for businesses and workers through the federal government paying the bills for some of the most expensive illnesses and conditions; focusing on the prevention of costly, debilitating conditions; reducing the cost of healthcare by improving quality: reducing waste and inefficiency through use of the latest information

technology; and breaking “the stranglehold that a few big drug and

insurance companies have on the healthcare market.”

'Dramatic' overcharging

Some drugmakers are “dramatically overcharging Americans for what they offer,” Sen Obama told his audience. “They’ll sell the same exact drugs here in America for double the price of what they charge in Europe and Canada. They’ll push expensive products on doctors by showering them with gifts, spend more to market and advertise their drugs than to research and develop them, and when a generic drugmaker comes along and wants to sell the same product for cheaper, the brand-name manufacturers will actually pay off the generic ones so they can preserve their monopolies and keep charging the rest of us high prices.”

However, he added: "we don’t have to stand for that anymore.” His plan would make generic drugs more available and drug companies would be told “their days of forcing affordable prescription drugs out of the market are over."

“When I’m President, we’re going to make drug and insurance companies

compete for their customers just like every other business in America,” he said.

Hillary backs govt price negotiation

The day before Sen Obama unveiled his healthcare plan, his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, claimed that giving the federal government powers to negotiate drug prices for Medicare would save $10-$15 billion a year. Speaking at the Manchester School of Technology in New Hampshire, she asked: “Why should the drug companies be immune from the process that goes on every day in America, where you bargain for the best deal you can get?”

“When Bill was president,” he gave the Veterans’ Administration (VA) the ability to negotiate with drugmakers, and this is one of the reasons why the VA has the lowest drug prices in America today, said Sen Clinton.