It’s Time to Lower Drug Prices for Our Seniors | OP-ED
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We are paying more for nearly everything today – from groceries to gas to housing. As inflation reaches its highest in 40 years – rising seven percent last year alone – Americans are asking what Congress can do to help them pay for the essentials they need.
For seniors, the problem of inflation is only made worse by the ever-increasing price of prescription drugs. For years, prescription drug price increases have dwarfed even the highest rates of general inflation. If consumer prices had risen as fast as drug prices over the last 15 years, gas would now cost $12.20 a gallon, and milk would be $13 a gallon.
Earlier this year, Big Pharma raised prices on 800 prescription medicines – and they have levied similar increases for decades, with no effective way to stop them from ripping off America’s seniors. Every day we hear from older Pennsylvanians who are forced to choose between paying for the medicines they need and paying for other essentials like food and heat. Congress has promised for years to bring down the price of prescription drugs. For any Senator concerned about inflation, lowering drug prices should be at the top of their To-Do list. With inflation at record levels, we need them to make good on that promise NOW!
Unlike just about every other country in the developed world, in the U.S., pharmaceutical companies can bypass negotiations on brand-name drugs and sell their products at inflated prices—a cost paid by seniors and the federal government. It’s outrageous that Americans are forced to pay three times more than people in other countries pay for the same drugs.
Especially because there is long-standing, bipartisan support for allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. Every year, Medicare spends more than $135 billion on prescription drugs. Yet it’s prohibited by law from using its buying power to negotiate with drug companies to get lower prices. Giving Medicare the power to negotiate will save seniors and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s right, billions.
The U.S. Senate has a historic opportunity to finally lower prescription drug prices and bring much-needed relief to seniors in Pennsylvania. There will never be a better time to deliver on their promise for fair drug prices. For older adults, who take on average four or five drugs a month and have a median income of less than $30,000, Congress’ failure to act is unconscionable. Washington can’t let Big Pharma keep ripping off our seniors.
And America’s seniors aren’t the only folks with skin in the game. Lowering prescription drug prices will also save the government hundreds of billions of dollars. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in Washington estimates that the latest drug pricing provisions passed by the House would save $297 billion over 10 years – including $84 billion from rebates paid for excessive price hikes and $79 billion from allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
American families cannot afford to leave that kind of money on the table. Big Pharma has been price gouging seniors for too long. This is the Senate’s opportunity to fix the unfair system that’s rigged against Americans. We will let our nearly 38 million members nationwide, including the 1.8 million members here in Pennsylvania, know whether the Senate does what’s right and finally votes to lower prescription drug prices or allows Big Pharma to win yet again. It’s time to get this done.