On Dec. 12, the House of Representatives took a vital step to lower prescription drug costs and passed the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. This bipartisan bill offers real relief to the millions of Americans who struggle to afford their needed medications. The bill would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices, create an out-of-pocket cap for seniors in Medicare Part D and crack down on excessive drug price increases.
AARP has been tracking drug prices for 12 years. For each year, the price of prescription drugs has increased much faster than inflation. That’s why AARP DC thanks Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton on behalf of our more than 83,000 local members for supporting this legislation to rein in the out-of-control prices of prescription drugs.
It should come as no surprise that many AARP members tell us they can’t afford the medications they need and are forced to make difficult choices as a result. In a recent survey of voters age 50 and older, four out of 10 people responded that they did not fill a prescription their doctor ordered them to take due to the cost.
The cost of prescription drugs can catch anyone off guard. Even though I have a good job and great health insurance, I was baffled by the prohibitive cost of essential blood pressure medication. I was able to qualify for a program that alleviated some of the cost, but not everyone is so fortunate.
It’s patients who pay for greedy Big Pharma practices that help keep drug prices high — it’s also taxpayers. The AARP Public Policy Institute released a new analysis in October that showed Medicare (meaning beneficiaries and taxpayers) spent an extra $110 billion in recent years on drug price increases that exceeded inflation. Imagine how those savings could have been used to protect Medicare for years to come.
The passage of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act could be of great benefit for seniors. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for high-cost drugs with no competitors — rather than being forced to pay whatever sky-high rates Big Pharma sets — would save a staggering $345 billion. The House bill would invest those savings back into Medicare by creating new dental, hearing and vision benefits in the program. These needed investments would greatly improve the health and well-being of older Americans and help reduce health care costs down the road.
The fact that the House passed legislation on prescription drugs — and that the Senate is considering a related bill — is a major step forward. Thoughtful efforts to help reduce prescription drug prices and cover needed services could save billions of dollars for patients, taxpayers and our health care system.
We thank Rep. Holmes Norton for her support to lower prescription drug prices and make health care more affordable. AARP is determined to win this fight on behalf of older Americans, and we stand with all our elected officials who are committed to lowering drug prices.
Curry is AARP DC state president.