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Caps are not a good substitute for cutting drug prices
May. 6, 2022 9:00 am
Sen. Chuck Grassley got it right when speaking about efforts to lower prescription costs, acknowledging the “difficulty of passing something like this in a Republican Congress,” adding, “If we want to reduce drug prices, then we need to do it now.”
For years we’ve been hearing lawmakers in Congress promise to tackle rising drug prices without any action. Prescription drugs and the outrageous price of medicine has made reform a top issue that attracts bipartisan support. A recent poll showed that 91 percent of voters considered lowering drug prices a very important issue in the upcoming election.
Millions have worried about being able to afford their prescriptions long before the pandemic or inflation concerns. Drug corporations have been raising prices faster than inflation for years, while people of all ages struggle to keep up or are forced to choose between medicine and other basic necessities.
It is time for Congress to act. Right now there is majority support in the Senate for tackling prices through negotiations in Medicare and passing legislation that would finally put in place common sense reform that would address rising prices.
We hear a lot about creating a national insulin cap, but any proposal that caps the cost of one or more drugs will not address the root of the problem, which is rising prices. We need our elected representatives to support price negotiations that actually stop the drug corporations from charging whatever they want and raising prices at will.
Capping the cost of insulin is a worthy idea, not a solution. It won’t stop drug corporations from setting the price of cancer drugs outrageously high and forcing up to half of cancer patients into debt to get lifesaving treatments. It won’t stop drug corporations from raising prices on common drugs that seniors and the rest of us use every day.
The price of half the drugs in Medicare, the health care program for seniors, increased faster than inflation in 2020. Those premium increases were not tied to one specific drug, but rather to thousands of commonly used medications. Currently, there is no limit on what seniors pay out of pocket for drugs in Part D, forcing many to skip doses, not fill prescriptions or forgo other critical needs.
To get to the root of the problem we need to be able to negotiate prices for medicines in Medicare the way other government agencies already do. Negotiated prices in the Department of Veterans Affairs and in Medicaid saves those programs and taxpayers significant amounts. Veterans Affairs and Medicaid pay half of what Medicare pays for prescription medicines.
We already know that negotiating prices will get consumers a better deal than continuing to give drug corporations monopoly power to set prices. In 2022 alone, drug corporations have raised the price of over 800 medicines by more than 5 percent.
There is a solution: Combine cost-containment measures with policies that actually rein in rising costs like Medicare negotiations and inflation caps. It’s time for our Iowa delegation to follow Rep. Cindy Axne’s lead and heed the comments from Sen. Grassley and support sensible legislation that would make medicines affordable for everyone.
Sue Dinsdale is the director of Iowa Citizen Action Network and leads the Health Care For America and Lower Drug Prices NOW campaigns in Iowa.
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