To help offset the costs of prescription drugs, the City and County of Honolulu instituted its new discount card program Tuesday, free to all Oahu residents, according to the Hawaii Reporter. Sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and administered by Caremark Rx, Inc., the program negotiates with drug companies to lower the price for card holders. What a novel idea!

Well, not really. Most big insurers and private drug discounters do this. Only Medicare–the nation’s largest drug buyer–can’t provide this service to you.

In 2003, Congress’s Medicare drug benefit plan specifically prohibited the government from negotiating drug prices. Recently, in April of this year the Senate was 60 votes short from passing a proposal that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices. As a result, taxpayers pay billions more than private employers, discounters, and now, the City of Honolulu for prescription drugs. That’s why some people say the Medicare drug benefit was no more than a massive giveaway to drug companies. In fact, Medicare needs to cover prescriptions, and Congress needs to bring down the price tag.