REUTHER: Prescription Drugs: America’s Scam | Opinion
By DAVID REUTHER
The continued rise in prescription drug prices remains a long-term hardship for many American families. Overall, US residents spend significantly more on prescription drugs than residents of other comparable developed countries.
Soaring drug prices, coupled with an aging population in dire need, have led many congressional lawmakers and public groups to tackle the current pricing system with increasing urgency.
It is a harsh reality that many people have to choose between food, shelter and medicine. According to an AARP report, applying the drug price increase rate to everyday items would mean a gallon of milk would cost $13, a loaf of bread $4.21, and a gallon of gasoline $12.20.
When President Biden visited Culpeper on Feb. 10, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) introduced him to Shannon Davis and her 12-year-old son Joshua, who, like his father, has diabetes from type 1 and whose insulin is expensive. the family about $1,000 a month. It’s not an optional expense, it’s vital to preserve their lives.
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To shed some light on the problem, Rep. Spanberger, along with five bipartisan colleagues, introduced the Public Disclosure of Drug Rebates Act, which would require that rebates, rebates, and price concessions negotiated by intermediaries be made public on a website through the Department. health and social services. The bill originally passed the House unanimously in 2019 and now sits in the divided Senate, where it languishes in committee.
The Elijah Cummings Cut Drug Costs Now Act of 2021 was also originally passed by the House in 2019; all Democrats voted for the measure and all but two Republicans voted against. The Republican-controlled Senate never picked it up. This would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices like Veterans Affairs and Medicaid do with drug companies.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Cummings bill would save $345 billion in federal spending over seven years, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found it could reduce out-of-pocket costs by $158 billion. dollars over a decade. It was reintroduced in 2021 and was later included in the President’s Build Back Better bill, which passed the House along party lines in November 2021. Facing unanimous Republican opposition, the bill died in the Senate.
The Build Back Better Act would have included a $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses for people enrolled in Medicare Part D drug plans and a $35 co-pay cap on certain insulins. It also reportedly allowed Medicare to begin negotiating the price of certain prescription drugs. From 2025, 10 drugs in addition to insulin would have been traded, with this number increasing to 20 drugs in 2028 and beyond.
Out of control drug prices, so difficult for so many Americans, translate into out of control profits for pharmaceutical companies, a problem unheard of in most other developed countries.
In a democratic republic, the people choose representatives to act for them and for the good of the country. Today, there appears to be a major disconnect between citizens and Congress, as well as hyper-partisanship within and between the two chambers.
The BBB is just one indicator of this unsatisfactory inaction, and the drug companies will happily continue to make obscene profits. If we don’t demand that our representatives meet the challenges we face, nothing will happen.
David Reuther, a retired US foreign service officer, is a former chairman of the Culpeper Democratic committee.