Allow Medicare to negotiate on behalf of patients to lower drug prices

President BidenJoe BidenMilitary must better understand sexual assaults to combat them The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE’s speech announcing his American Families Plan reaffirmed his strong support for legislation to lower drug prices through Medicare negotiation. “Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices,” he said. “Let’s do it now.”

President Biden is right. After nearly two decades of rising drug prices under a system in which drug corporations can dictate prices of brand-name drugs, Americans need the relief they have been promised.

Millions of patients need help — patients like 62-year-old Lucinda in Richmond, Vt., who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since she was a teenager. To manage her symptoms, she was prescribed Simponi, methotrexate, and prednisone. The prices of these prescriptions have continued to increase each year since she was diagnosed as a teenager, coming to a total of $59,000 in 2019.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lucinda’s story is not unique. Patients For Affordable Drugs has collected tens of thousands of stories of Americans who are skipping doses, cutting pills in half, rationing insulin, or choosing between paying the bills and buying the drugs they need. Americans are paying almost four times what people in other wealthy nations pay for the exact same brand-name drugs. As the president said, the time to act is now.

Democrats in the House of Representatives aren’t missing a beat. Last week, H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, was reintroduced. This bill would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices on behalf of all Americans, prevent price gouging, and direct more money to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for critical research to ensure innovation and new drug development.

H.R. 3 would limit the annual out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries to no more than $2,000, and would establish a top negotiated price for drugs at no more than 120 percent of the average of six other wealthy nations. The bill would penalize drug companies that increase prices faster than the rate of inflation.

The CEO of the trade association PhRMA recently complained that it should not be used as a piggy bank to fund other priorities. But it’s Big Pharma that has been using patients and taxpayers as piggy banks, raising prices at will to fund profits and trigger executive bonuses. Pharma’s chief lobbyist is right about one thing, however: America has other priorities. Every dollar we send to pharma in unjustified profits is a dollar we don’t have to tackle health care disparities, provide coverage to the uninsured, or fund research into new medicines aimed at improving public health instead of private profits.

H.R. 3 would support and protect innovation and new drug development by investing some of the expected savings into the world-class research funded through the NIH. The federal government is the primary source of basic research in biomedical sciences, and NIH funding is crucial to basic research that leads to the discovery of new drugs, as noted by the Congressional Budget Office. The most innovative new drugs are coming from investment by taxpayers through the NIH.

ADVERTISEMENT

Most urgently, people are dying right now because they can’t afford the existing drugs they need. More than 1.1 million Medicare patients could die over the next decade because they cannot afford to pay for their prescriptions. If Medicare were empowered to directly negotiate prices with drug companies, there could be 94,000 fewer deaths annually just because people would be able to afford their drugs.

The reforms in H.R. 3 are widely supported. Ninety-three percent of Americans agree that Medicare should have the power to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. It's an issue that overwhelmingly unites Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Congressional support is not far behind. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack MORE (D-Calif.) has made clear her intention to include H.R. 3 in the American Families Plan. Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population Wyden warns: 'Today's fires are not your grandfather's wildfires' Hillicon Valley: Cyber agency says SolarWinds hack could have been deterred | Civil rights groups urge lawmakers to crack down on Amazon's 'dangerous' worker surveillance | Manchin-led committee puts forth sprawling energy infrastructure proposal MORE (D-Ore.), who chairs the Finance Committee that will advance drug price legislation, has made clear his support for Medicare price negotiations.

We have an opportunity to, finally, make drug prices affordable if we stand with patients and stand up to Big Pharma. Now is the time for Congress to pass legislation that will deliver meaningful relief from high drug prices to the American people. With President Biden’s support, this is the year we will lower drug prices for Americans struggling to afford their medications.

Congressman Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE has served Vermont's at-large congressional district since 2007. David Mitchell is a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs, the only national, bipartisan patient organization focused solely on policies to lower drug prices.