A plan to arrest the rising cost of prescription drugs
As I’ve traveled across eastern Connecticut in the past weeks and months, the issue I hear about over and over from all walks of life is the relentless skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.
For example, a woman from Vernon told me that the cost of one of her medications was more than nine times as much in 2019 than in 2016, and that when she called her insurance company to inquire about the price increase, she was told that in fact she should have been charged more. A man from Sterling wrote to my office that the cost of his generic medication had risen by over 1,000% in a calendar year. Another from Old Lyme said that the cost of his eye drops had risen by over 12,000%, with no explanation. This is just a sample of the stories I hear from constituents – seniors, chronic care patients, and working families having to pay more and more out of pocket for both generic drugs like insulin, or brand name drugs like Humira.
The rising cost of prescription medication is a top-line issue for folks here in eastern Connecticut, and for millions across the country. The House of Representatives has gotten a lot of work done since coming into session in January – from securing care for our Blue Water Navy veterans, to voting to reinstate Net Neutrality as the law of the land, and much more – but one thing we’ve been squarely focused on is our effort to curb the skyrocketing costs of prescription medication, and to give Americans a better deal on drug prices.
We know that one of the biggest concerns people have about the stability of their care is the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. Twenty-four percent of Americans say that they didn’t fill a prescription last year due to high costs, and 19% say they skipped a dose or cut pills in half because they’re so expensive. These statistics are playing out right here in eastern Connecticut. Just recently, a woman from Eastford told me that the copay for her husband’s medication was $1,300 a dose, and that for the first time in their lives they were choosing to forgo doctor-prescribed medication because of cost.
Patients in the U.S. pay drug prices that are nearly four times higher than other countries for the exact same prescription drugs, sold by the exact same drug manufacturers. For Americans, the prices are rising without rhyme or reason. Earlier this fall, at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on the rising cost of prescription drugs, witnesses confirmed that Americans – from pediatric patients to seniors on Medicare – are being exploited by ridiculous spikes in drug prices, and that the cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. has exploded to a whopping 25% of premium dollars.
Drug manufacturers are using Americans as a piggy bank, and it’s time for it to end.
Drug manufacturers are using Americans as a piggy bank, and it’s time for it to end. That’s why I’m proud to be a cosponsor of H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, a bill that would change the law by finally allowing for Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for fairer, lower drug prices – the kind of prices they offer to other countries, but not to us.
As it stands now, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is banned by law from negotiating with big pharma for better, fairer prices. The Lower Drug Costs Now Act would instruct the Secretary of HHS to negotiate fair prices for some of the most expensive prescription drugs, helping to lower costs for millions across the country. These lower prices would be available not just to Medicare beneficiaries, but also to those with private insurance.
The bill also prohibits manufacturers from raising their prices faster than inflation, and requires that they pay back profits on drugs sold to Medicare beneficiaries if they do. Also under this bill, Medicare would cap the amount that patients spend on prescription drugs for the first time ever – a huge savings for seniors with high drug costs. In just the past few weeks, H.R. 3 was introduced, my colleagues and I in the House Education & Labor Committee held a productive hearing on strategies for lowering prescription drug costs laid out in the bill, and we voted to approve the bill during a legislative markup session, setting it up for a final vote before the full House of Representatives.
The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, is a crucial step towards making sure that Americans are given a fair deal, and it’s drawn support from patients and experts across the country, including here in eastern Connecticut. Earlier this month, I convened a community discussion at the Groton Senior Center to discuss how H.R. 3 would help lower prescription drug prices, and I was joined by Nora Duncan of AARP Connecticut, Judy Stein of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, and Laura Hoch of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – all of whom emphasized the importance of passing this legislation. We’re not wasting time in advancing H.R. 3 here in the House, but it isn’t the only step we’ve taken to curb the rising cost of prescription medication. We’ve already passed bipartisan legislation this year that takes the issue head-on.
In May, the House voted to pass H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, on a bipartisan basis. This bill tackles another aspect of unfair prescription drug pricing by helping lower-priced generic drugs get to market faster, offering Americans more low-cost options to choose from. Getting more low-priced prescription drugs into the market is a key way to create billions of dollars in savings for American consumers and taxpayers – in 2017 alone, the entry of generic drugs into the market saved us a total of $265 billion.
That’s good for our wallets, but certain drug manufacturers are using anti-competitive practices to keep lower-cost alternatives off of our shelves. They keep generic manufacturers from obtaining samples of drugs to create alternatives, they purposefully delay the introduction of their own drugs to market, and they even pay off generic drug manufacturers to make sure that their high-cost drugs are the only ones we see on our drug store shelves.
H.R. 987 takes the issue head-on, and would finally put an end to many of these calculated practices that are contributing to the exploding cost of prescription medication. It should be reiterated that this bill is bipartisan – it passed the House with support from both sides of the aisle. However, it’s now among a long list of other House-passed bills that have not yet received a vote in the Senate. The bill is ready to go, waiting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.
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