US House passes Medicare Rx bill to lower drug prices

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US House passes Medicare Rx bill to lower drug prices

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 12:43pm -- tim

AARP Vermont Applauds the House for Passing the Elijah E Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act

Vermont Business Magazine The House on Thursday passed HR3, the Elijah E Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. HR3 empowers the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices on the most expensive and utilized drugs covered by Medicare. Savings achieved from negotiations would be made available to commercial health insurance plans covering the same drugs. The refusal of any drug company to negotiate would result in a steep tax penalty.

“This comprehensive bill will bring long overdue drug price relief to Vermont’s consumers, including families like the Kanats who are struggling to afford lifesaving medicines,” said Representative Peter Welch (D-Vermont) just prior to the bill's passage in the House on Thursday. “It is a common sense solution that empowers the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices with Big Pharma. There is simply no reason why the federal government, the largest purchaser of drugs in the nation, should pay retail drug prices through the Medicare program. Lower drug prices will provide across-the-board relief to seniors, taxpayers, businesses and consumers.”

Welch first introduced a price negotiation bill in 2010 and is the lead cosponsor of Rep. Cummings’s price negotiation bill. He is a senior member of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee from which the bill originated.

H.R 3 empowers the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices on the most expensive and utilized drugs covered by Medicare. Savings achieved from negotiations would be made available to commercial health insurance plans covering the same drugs. The refusal of any drug company to negotiate would result in a steep tax penalty.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would save taxpayers and consumers approximately $500 billion.  Savings would be invested in an expansion of Medicare benefits to cover dental, hearing and vision services; increased funding for research on disease cures and treatments; community health centers; and efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

The bill is named after the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, Welch’s partner on drug price negotiation legislation. Welch and Cummings met with President Trump in March 2017 to urge his support for their bill. 

AARP Vermont State Director Greg Marchildon released the following statement today, applauding Rep. Welch of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“AARP Vermont commends Rep. Welch for helping pass the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bipartisan legislation is a bold step toward lowering prescription drug prices and high out-of-pocket costs for millions of older Americans, including our 120,000 Vermont members.

“H.R. 3 would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, set an annual out-of-pocket cap for seniors in Medicare Part D, and crack down on relentless drug price increases by pharmaceutical companies. In addition, the $500 billion that the Congressional Budget Office estimates taxpayers will save over the next ten years would be reinvested back into the Medicare program to create important new dental, hearing, and vision benefits. These benefits would improve older adults’ health and well-being and reduce future health care costs.

“High drug prices disproportionately hurt older Americans, particularly Medicare Part D enrollees, who take between four and five prescription medications each month and have an average annual income of just over $26,000 a year. The average annual price of a specialty drug used on a chronic basis is now $79,000. Medications cannot work if they are unaffordable.

“Now it’s time for the Senate to act. AARP Vermont urges Senators to pass the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. The President and Congress will need to work together to get this done. Americans are desperate for relief from high prescription drug prices.”

About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

Source: BURLINGTON -- AARP Vermont 12.13.2019