The U.S. House today passed historic legislation to bring down prescription drug prices for tens of millions of American seniors. The Inflation Reduction Act, which the Senate passed last weekend after intense negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, now goes to President Biden’s desk for signature. It is the most sweeping health care legislation since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Seniors’ advocates cheered the House vote after decades of battling to bring soaring prescription drug prices under control, especially for seniors in the Medicare Part D program:
“Today’s House passage of The Inflation Reduction Act will deliver meaningful price relief to Medicare beneficiaries who have been struggling to afford their essential medications while Big Pharma’s profits soared. Seniors and their advocates have been battling skyrocketing prescription drug prices for decades — while the drug industry lobby has spent billions of dollars to defeat any attempt at reducing consumer costs. Commonsense legislation to contain runaway drug prices may be a bitter pill for Big Pharma, but it’s one Congress says the industry will have to swallow.” – Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, 8/12/22
Under this bill, Medicare will finally be empowered to negotiate prices for certain high-cost medications with drug-makers, similar to what the VA health care system has been doing for years. The bill reverses an insidious provision in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act forbidding the Medicare program from negotiating prices with manufacturers. When prices are negotiated, the exorbitant costs of life-saving medications for conditions like heart disease and cancer should finally come down, providing much-needed relief to seniors’ pocketbooks — and saving Medicare $288 billion over ten years.
The bill also makes drugs more affordable by capping Medicare Part D patients’ out of pocket costs at $2,000 per year. This will be of enormous help to beneficiaries on fixed incomes who have been rationing or skipping medications altogether because of cost, sometime with fatal consequences. Likewise, for millions of Medicare beneficiaries living with diabetes, the bill caps the cost of insulin at $35 per month at a time when retail prices can range from $300-$1,000.
Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, drug-makers no longer will able to hike prescription prices at will with impunity. Among other provisions, the legislation requires drug companies to rebate to the government the amount by which drugs used under Medicare Part B and D rise faster than inflation.
“On behalf of our millions of members and supporters across the country, we commend the House majority who voted to pass this bill in the face of formidable pressure from Big Pharma — and we congratulate President Biden for his leadership to deliver on his pledge to lower drug prices. This is a historic win for all Americans.” – Max Richtman