In an effort to protect consumers and get seniors a better deal on prescription drug costs, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have joined with 31 Senate colleagues in sponsoring legislation introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), on Jan. 9th, to lower prescription drug prices. If enacted, S 62, the Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act of 2019, would allow Medicare to negotiate the best possible price for prescription drug to cut the costs for nearly 43 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and prohibits Medicare from doing so.
In the House of Representatives, the bipartisan companion bill is led by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Francis Rooney (R-FL).
Protecting Senior’s Pocket Books
Reed and Whitehouse are also cosponsors on two other bills released last week that would make expensive prescription medications more affordable for Rhode Island families.
The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act of 2019, would allow for the importation of lower-cost medications from countries outside the U.S. S. 97, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow wholesalers, licensed U.S. pharmacies, and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs manufactured at Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-inspected facilities from licensed Canadian sellers. Two years after the enactment date, the legislation would also authorize HHS to allow importation from countries within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which meet the statutory or regulatory standards that are comparable to U.S. standards.
And finally, S. 73, The End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act of 2019, led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). would prohibit pharmaceutical drug manufacturers from claiming tax deductions for consumer advertising expenses. Advertising expenses by pharmaceutical drug manufacturers have more than quadrupled over the past two decades, rising from $1.3 billion in 1997 to $6 billion in 2016. This aggressive advertising also increases demand and allows drug companies to increase prices. The legislation would eliminate this tax deduction for drug advertising costs, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize drug advertisements.
Seniors Ripped Off by High Drug Costs
“Prescription medications cost too much, and for too long consumers have essentially been getting ripped off while special interests prevent Congress from taking action. These bills will help protect Rhode Island seniors and families by using bulk purchasing power and other commonsense measures to lower prescription drug prices,” said Reed. “Americans shouldn’t be systematically forced to overpay for prescription drugs. We hope to get bipartisan support for prescription drug pricing reform,” he says.
“One of the top concerns I hear from Rhode Island seniors is the challenge they face affording prescription medications,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “These are smart, straightforward solutions Congress can enact to bring them relief,.” adds the Senator.
The senators noted that President Trump has also endorsed themes and ideas similar to these Democratic sponsored legislation at one time or another and urge the President to get off the sidelines of the debate, stand up to the pharmaceutical industry, and help take action to reduce prescription drug costs for Americans.