A room full of gray-haired voters showed up Wednesday to hear U.S. Senate candidate Jim Pederson discuss Medicare reform.
In a 30-minute speech,, Pederson said part of the problem of skyrocketing health care costs is the high price of prescription drugs. He said the pharmaceutical industry is gouging Americans, and his opponent, incumbent Jon Kyl, has been a willing accomplice.
"Big drug companies routinely charge 50 percent less for the same drugs in Mexico and Canada," Pederson said. "Taxpayers are charged too much for drugs and drug companies are rolling in record profits." His solutions to the problem includes allowing Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies.
Pederson also told the audience that seniors on Medicare should be allowed to switch plans as many times as they want without paying a penalty. Currently, seniors must remain with the plan in which they originally enrolled.
Pederson is also in favor of eliminating the "enrollment tax" that penalizes seniors who enroll in Medicare after the May 15, 2006 deadline, doing away with all fees for seniors on AHCCCS, allowing re-importation of FDA-approved prescription drugs and speeding the availability of less costly generic drugs.
Allowing re-importation of drugs, rather than making it unlawful, would lower prescription drug prices by 30 to 40 percent, Pederson said.
The candidate claimed he could hasten the availability of generic drugs by increasing funding to reduce the Food and Drug's Administration backlog of 850 applications for generics.
In introducing himself to the voters, Pederson told of growing up in Casa Grande, one of six sons of parents who survived the Great Depression.
"After what they had been through, their message to me was ‘get an education,'" he said. After graduating from high school, he went to the University of Arizona where he earned a degree in political science and a master's in public administration.
Pederson later worked as an administrative assistant to Phoenix Mayor Milt Graham and as manager for Westcor Shopping Center. In 1983, he branched out on his own by founding the Pederson Group.
His company helped develop the Safeway shopping center in Payson as well as 25 other retail projects around the state, he said.