Game-changing H.R. 3 would stop prescription-drug price gouging

December 11, 2019
Editorials
By Reps. Dean Phillips and Angie Craig

Published in MinnPost

When we began running for Congress, we immediately heard from Minnesotans who were worried about their health care. They were worried about threats to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, about being one illness away from financial ruin, and about skyrocketing prices of their life-saving prescription drugs. The consensus is clear on health care more than any other issue — people in our communities want their elected leaders to reform and protect their care.

We listened, and we promised that if elected, we’d fight for a health care system that is centered on patients and outcomes, not procedures and profits. In no small part, that is why Minnesotans chose to send us to Washington, and that’s why we’re proud to continue fulfilling that promise by helping to introduce H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, in the House of Representatives this month.

This game-changing prescription drug pricing bill finally gives Medicare leverage to negotiate lower drug prices. It has been estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Centers for Medicare (CMS) Office of the Actuary that H.R. 3 will lower drug prices by up to 55% — saving hard-working Americans an enormous $158 billion.

And it could not come at a more timely moment. This fall, a study published by Gallup found that more than 23% of American adults — 58 million people — report being unable to pay for medicine or drugs that a doctor had prescribed. It is shocking and reprehensible that in the richest country in the world, nearly a quarter of the population is unable to afford their prescriptions. And yet, we know it’s true, because we hear the heartbreaking stories from Minnesotans in every corner of our communities far too often.

We know that H.R. 3 would improve the lives of thousands of Minnesotans by lowering costs and expanding access to lifesaving medications, but it faces opposition from politicians in Washington who are beholden to the special interests that line their campaign accounts.

Like us, President Trump promised during his campaign to allow Medicare to directly negotiate prices with drug companies, but he has broken that trust – his administration has refused to do so, instead putting former pharmaceutical executives in charge of his health care policy. And after giving billions in tax breaks to the biggest drug companies last year, Mitch McConnell has declared H.R. 3 dead on arrival in the Senate.

There is too much at stake.

Medicare recipients are not the only ones who will benefit from projected savings. Lower prices will apply to every American who purchases prescriptions, no matter how they are insured. Whether you’re a child with asthma, a teen with diabetes, or a senior with a chronic illness – this bill will bring the cost of your medication down.

This plan will stop unjustified price gouging for thousands of critical medications, including insulin. Drug companies will no longer be allowed to charge Americans double and triple the price for the same prescription drugs as in other countries around the world, and they would be penalized if they keep the system rigged and their prices high. It’s no surprise, then, that the pharmaceutical industry has launched an aggressive campaign to defeat the bill, and drug companies are spending millions of dollars and have deployed hundreds of lobbyists to prevent its passage.

And while H.R. 3 is not popular with drug companies, it is popular with the American people because allowing Medicare to negotiate to lower the cost of prescription drugs and capping out of pocket costs just makes sense. They are ready for Washington to start working for them, and not the special interests that profit by protecting the status quo.

For too long, too many Minnesotans have stayed up at night worrying about rising costs of prescription drugs. Too many families are placed in the impossible position of choosing between getting their medications or paying their rent. Too many voters have gone to the ballot box with hope, only to be disappointed when those they send to Washington place the will of special interests over common interest.

But as new members of Congress, we’re delivering a fresh alternative to business as usual. We see you, we hear you, and our promise to you is that H.R. 3 is just the beginning.

Angie Craig represents Minnesota’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dean Phillips represents Minnesota’s Third Congressional District.

 
 
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