December 11, 2019
On behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s millions of members and supporters, I write to strongly urge you to vote for H.R. 3, the “Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.” This landmark piece of legislation would significantly reduce drug costs for seniors and the federal government while reinvesting those savings into needed Medicare benefit improvements.
Drug prices in the U.S. have become unsustainable for our health care system. The U.S. pays 3 to 4 times more for drugs than other countries do. The average annual cost of a brand-name drug has more than tripled in the past decade, jumping from $1,868 in 2006 to $6,798 in 2017.
Exorbitant drug prices are causing seniors enormous hardship. Increasingly, seniors must choose between necessities of life and their medications. Today, 1 out of 4 seniors report having difficulty affording their medications.
Reducing drug costs
H.R. 3 would help curb absurd price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry by allowing Medicare to negotiate the costs of prescription drugs directly with manufacturers. H.R. 3’s excise tax on sales as well as significant penalties for noncompliance with the legislation’s various requirements will arm the Medicare program with meaningful tools to drive down drug prices.
In recent years, drug makers have engaged in unjustified price spiking where drug prices go up for no apparent reason other than industry greed. H.R. 3 tamps down on this excessive profiteering by requiring companies to rebate to the government price increases above the rate of inflation.
Filling gaps in Medicare coverage
Medicare is a great program, but it has significant gaps in coverage contributing to high out-of-pocket costs for many seniors. H.R. 3 helps fill these gaps by providing partial coverage for hearing, dental and vision services. H.R. 3 also increases the number of low-income seniors eligible for assistance with their drug costs and cost sharing for hospital and doctor visits. By extending guaranteed issue protections to disabled beneficiaries and to individuals who want to switch from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare, H.R. 3 also improves access to private supplemental coverage that helps fill in Medicare’s gaps for beneficiaries in traditional Medicare.
Lowering seniors’ out-of-pocket costs
One million Medicare beneficiaries spent nearly $3,200 on out-of-pocket drug costs in 2016. Medicare beneficiaries’ average out-of-pocket costs for certain brand name drugs rose by 40 percent between 2011 and 2015. By putting a $2,000 out-of-pocket spending cap on Part D, H.R. 3 would bring significant relief to seniors with high drug costs.
The National Committee has long supported many of the provisions in H.R. 3. No one bill can do everything. We urge you to pass this significant step forward for seniors and look forward to working with you to implement and improve upon this landmark legislation.