The bio-pharmaceutical industry understands that groundbreaking treatments and cures for ailments help no one if patients can’t afford them. As lawmakers consider policies aimed at lowering the cost of medicine for older patients, one way of providing relief would be requiring that the savings bio-pharmaceutical companies negotiate with insurers and pharmacy benefit managers be shared directly with seniors at the pharmacy counter.
Currently, insurance companies and middlemen get big discounts on medicines through Medicare, but they don’t always pass those savings along to seniors who are receiving these prescriptions. We know reforms requiring those savings to be shared at the pharmacy counter would offer meaningful savings for patients.
This idea has support from policymakers on both sides of the aisle, including more than 86% of AARP members, yet AARP continues to oppose it. Indeed, while many in the health care industry are seeking ways to save money for seniors and all Americans, AARP consistently opposes allowing seniors to share these savings with patients.
Further, in states including Connecticut AARP has supported proposals to allow states to develop state-run medicine importation schemes. This stance is despite an article in the May 2016 AARP bulletin warning about the dangers of counterfeit drugs entering the United States from bad actors purporting to be Canadian pharmacies. The AARP also has supported measures that could limit older patients’ access to cutting-edge treatments and cures. It has promoted multiple “transparency” measures that target bio-pharmaceutical companies but ignore others in the supply chain that determine what patients pay for their medicines.
At the federal level, AARP continues to advocate for misguided legislation that would divert more than $120 billion away from the research and development of new medicines and into the hands of the government, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.
Ultimately, AARP supports a policy that puts insurers before seniors because since 2010 the organization has made more than $4.5 billion in royalties and investment income because of its relationship with insurance companies. In fact, according to news reports , “much of AARP’s revenue comes from its connection to United Healthcare Group. While AARP collected $301 million in membership dues in 2017, the organization took in about $627 million in royalties from UHG.”
At PhRMA, we’d rather see these savings in the pockets of America’s seniors than in the pockets of insurers and the federal treasury. To do so, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers need to share the savings they receive from bio-pharmaceutical companies with seniors at the pharmacy counter.
It’s clear that AARP chooses to stand with large insurance companies, from whom it has received the vast majority of its revenue in recent years, instead of with its members. As AARP mounts its multimillion-dollar campaign advocating for policies like the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, Connecticut should ask, “Who is AARP fighting really for?”
Tiffany Haverly is a spokeswoman for PhRMA, an advocacy group representing U.S. bio-pharmaceutical research companies.