So, What’s Being Done to Lower Them?

If you’ve been watching the news and listening to the grievances that the American people have about the cost of healthcare, one thing you’ll consistently hear is that American’s are increasingly concerned about the high cost of the their medications, especially folks that get their medications through Medicare.

The reason why people are so concerned is real: over the first 6 months of 2019, more than 3,400 drugs saw increased prices, at an average rate of 10% per drug.  More than 40 drugs saw price increases of more than 100% including a 879% increase in the cost of Prozac.  The price of insulin has nearly tripled since 2002, and increased by 64% between 2014 and 2019.

Under the current process, Medicare contracts with private plans, which are given the sole authority to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. But if Medicare could do the negotiating, they’d have a lot more leverage.  The fact that Medicare can’t negotiate on our behalf is a big reason why U.S. drug prices are nearly four times higher than the average prices in similar countries.

So, the question is, is anything being done to lower costs? The answer is yes, and no.

Last December the US House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill known as H.R.3 (called the Lower Drug Costs Now Act) which is essentially a policy intervention that would end the ban on Medicare negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for drug prices.  H.R. 3 would not only lower the cost of drugs for Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries, but everyone would benefit because manufacturers would be required to offer the lower negotiated prices to group and individual health insurance plans too.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 3 would lower drug prices by an average of 55% and save Medicare $456 billion over 10 years.

And, it’s a popular solution.  An October 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 88% percent of respondents supported allowing the federal government to negotiate lower Medicare drug prices, including 85% of Republicans.

The problem is that the US Senate has thus far refused to bring H.R. 3 to the floor of the Senate for consideration (Senator Mitch McConnell makes that decision).  In other words, Senators haven’t even had the opportunity to consider the law- and as a result- Medicare is still forbidden from negotiating drug prices on our behalf.

Some say that’s because the Senate leadership is held captive by the drug manufacturers lobby and is therefore unwilling to bring the solution up for consideration. 

Just something to keep in mind as we as voters think about who to vote for in the Arizona Senate race.