Jim Gray says Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices during Lexington roundtable

07/01/2016 04:59 PM

LEXINGTON — Their concerns ranged from excessive paperwork to expensive prescription drugs.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray drew about 40 to a Medicare roundtable at The Lafayette, a senior living community, on Friday. The event coincided with the 50th anniversary of Medicare’s implementation.

Gray didn’t mention U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, his Republican opponent in this fall’s election, as he railed against a past proposal by House Speaker Paul Ryan to transition Medicare to a voucher system.

He called Medicare’s inability to negotiate drug prices “a shame” and pointed to his experience as mayor of Lexington six years ago, when the city created a clinic and pharmacy for its employees and their families.

“Our costs have been reduced enormously as a result of that, from $40 million down to $23 million,” he said. “So what I know is that care, good care can be provided at a responsible price, at an economical price.”

Asked after the roundtable whether he saw any room to negotiate in reforming Medicare, such as raising the age limit from 65, Gray said the program can save money in its current structure.

“I think that we need to work within our system,” Gray said. “… That is achievable as long as people will actually come together and get at the work table and work out the problems. There’s plenty of money in the system to work through these problems.”

Special interest lobbies, such as pharmaceuticals, “have prevented Medicare from negotiating on the price of drugs,” Gray told the roundtable audience.

He told reporters that he has “no obligations to special interests,” which would leave him unencumbered in Congress.

“I’m not going to be bought and paid for by special interests, and that’s a big deal,” Gray said. “Our senators and our representatives need to be there with an independent spirit, need to be in Washington and they need to be fighting for these people who are here today, and that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

When Democrats descend on Philadelphia to coronate their party’s presumptive presidential nominee in Hillary Clinton, it’s unclear whether Gray will be among attendees.

His plans for the July 25-28 gathering are still up in the air, he said.

When asked whether he needed to keep national Democrats and Clinton at arm’s length in his race, he said he’s keeping his eyes on his campaign.

“I’m focused on my campaign, and others can be focused on their campaigns, and I respect that,” he told reporters. “But what we need to do is tackle the problems that we’ve got right here in Kentucky, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

Gray’s roundtable comes a day past the second-quarter fundraising deadline.

The Lexington mayor was tight-lipped about the number he would report and equally so about whether he pumped more of his personal wealth into the campaign. Gray has loaned his campaign $1 million thus far.

“I intend to have the resources to run an effective race,” Gray said.

Paul had about $1.4 million in his campaign coffers in the most recent reporting period, outpacing the $1.1 million in Gray’s campaign account.

Last week, the Republican incumbent held a fundraiser alongside fellow GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina in Louisville.

Paul’s campaign declined to comment for this report.


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