Improving drug prices - Brownsville Herald: Letters To The Editor

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Improving drug prices

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Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2020 5:17 pm

On Dec. 12, the U.S. House of Representative took a vital step to lower prescription drug prices and passed the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. This bipartisan bill offers real relief to the millions of Americans who struggle to afford their needed medications. The bill would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices, create an out-of-pocket cap for seniors in Medicare Part D, and crack down on excessive drug price increases.

AARP has been tracking drug prices for 12 years. For each year, the price for prescription drugs has increased much faster than inflation. That’s why AARP Texas thanks South Texasarea U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela on behalf of our 2.3 million Texas members for voting “Yes” to rein in the out-ofcontrol prices of prescription drugs.

It should come as no surprise that many AARP members tell us they can’t afford the medications they need, and are forced to make difficult choices as a result. In a recent survey of voters age 50 and older, four out of 10 people responded that they did not fill a prescription their doctor ordered them to take due to the cost.

Glenna Martin, 82, of Dallas has a number of health problems requiring expensive medications. But she hasn’t purchased several of the drugs she needs because of their exorbitant cost, she says.

It’s not just patients like Martin who pay for greedy Big Pharma practices that help keep drug prices high — it’s also taxpayers. The AARP Public Policy Institute released a new analysis in October 2019 that showed Medicare (meaning beneficiaries and taxpayers) spent an extra $110 billion in recent years on drug price increases that exceeded inflation. Imagine how those savings could have been used to protect Medicare for years to come.

The passage of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act could be of great benefit for seniors. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for high-cost drugs with no competitors — rather than being forced to pay whatever sky-high rates Big Pharma sets — would save a staggering $345 billion. The House bill would invest those savings back into Medicare by creating new dental, hearing and vision benefits in the program. These needed investments would greatly improve the health and well-being of older Americans and help reduce health care costs down the road.

The fact that the House passed legislation on prescription drugs — and that the Senate is considering a related bill — is a major step forward. Now it’s time for the Senate to act. AARP urges Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas to support the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. The president and Congress will need to work together to get this done. Americans are desperate for relief from high prescription drug prices.

We thank U.S. Rep. Vela for his vote to lower prescription drug prices and make health care more affordable. AARP is determined to win this fight on behalf of older Americans, and we stand with all our elected officials who are committed to lowering drug prices.

Tina Tran State director AARP Texas

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