Congress must pass comprehensive drug pricing reforms that include Medicare negotiation
We are facing an historic opportunity in Congress to finally reform our rigged prescription drug pricing system that has forced Americans to pay almost four times what other nations pay for the same drugs and has left one out of four patients unable to afford the medications they need.
Last fall, one of us, Rep. Susan Wild, voted to pass comprehensive drug pricing reforms that would help millions of Americans afford expensive medications. The other one of us, David Mitchell, is a patient who would benefit directly from the legislation.
Right now, the Senate could follow the House of Representatives’ lead and pass the comprehensive reforms to deliver relief to all Americans with high drug prices. These historic reforms already have the necessary support to pass in the Senate – a clear path through reconciliation.
But the Senate is dragging its feet on reconciliation, instead focusing on passing just one component of the broad package: capping monthly insulin copays. Meanwhile, Rep. Wild and her colleagues in the House have now passed the insulin provision twice — once in the comprehensive package last Fall and again last week as standalone legislation.
To be very clear, it is beyond question that we need to provide relief to people who rely on insulin — the price of which skyrocketed 300 percent over a recent ten year period. But addressing high insulin prices is already included in the broader drug pricing package passed by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate. And there are millions of patients who rely on other expensive drugs who would benefit from the reforms in the whole package.
David, for example, lives with the incurable cancer, multiple myeloma. The list prices of the four cancer drugs keeping him alive total $935,000 annually. Just one of those drugs will cost more than $16,000 out-of-pocket this year. And he is far from alone.
The scope of the problem is enormous: More than 131 million people — 66 percent of all adults in the United States — use prescription drugs. More than 25 percent of American voters said they or a family member had financial difficulty affording a prescribed medication in the last 12 months. More than half of cancer patients report going into debt because of the price of their care, with chemotherapy and pharmacy drugs cited among the top reasons for that debt. One out of four people with diabetes reports rationing insulin due to cost. For patients with multiple sclerosis, the annual median price for brand name MS medications has increased almost 300 percent from $34,000 to $94,000 in less than 10 years.
The comprehensive drug pricing reforms would deliver relief to all Americans who are struggling by – for the first time – authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices directly for some of the most expensive prescription medicines; instituting a hard cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for millions of Medicare beneficiaries and people who are insulin dependent; and limiting annual price increases for prescription drugs to no more than the rate of inflation.
To put this into perspective, if Congress succeeds in passing the drug pricing reforms, David would save more than $14,000 per year beginning in 2024, plus savings on premiums. It would restrain prices and save money for hundreds of millions of Americans.
We have the votes in the Senate to pass comprehensive legislation to help all of these people. In fact, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is a key player in fashioning a reconciliation package and supports one that will reform taxes, fight climate change and lower prices of prescription drugs, including allowing Medicare to negotiate.
And voters, who are feeling the impact of inflation, are united in supporting these reforms. More than 4 out of 5 Americans agree that Medicare should have the power to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. And 9 out of 10 voters agree that allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices is a top reason to pass the reconciliation bill.
There is a clear path forward to pass historic and comprehensive reforms that bring relief to all patients – including those dependent on insulin – and save
s money for consumers and taxpayers. But to get it done, we need the Senate to seize the moment and fulfill their promise to pass the package of comprehensive reforms that includes both allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices on expensive drugs including insulin and capping insulin copays. Patients are depending on the Senate to get back on track to secure a win for the American people
Susan Wild represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District and David Mitchell is founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs Now (P4ADNow.)