Brown, Stabenow Lead Finance Dem Effort to Include Bold Drug Pricing Measures in Prescription Drug Bill

Senate Finance Committee Working on Legislative Package to Bring Down Prescription Drug Costs; Committee Dems Push for Tools to Lower Costs for Consumers, Taxpayers

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today led a group of their Democratic colleagues in urging the Finance Committee to give the Secretary the authority to obtain fair prices for the nation’s Medicare beneficiaries as a part of the Committee’s efforts to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. The majority of Americans believe that the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, and more than 80 percent of seniors across party lines support giving the government the authority to negotiate prices in Medicare, especially for high-cost drugs with no competition. Brown, Stabenow and their Democratic colleagues on the Finance Committee are pushing for solutions that prioritize patients over the profits of drug companies, middlemen, and insurance companies.

“Among other reforms, we are ready for this Committee to assert its jurisdiction over this issue and provide the Secretary of HHS with the authority to obtain fair prices within Medicare and improve access to affordable drugs in Medicaid. Our constituents should not have to rely on Executive Action or negotiations by other countries to lower the prices of prescription drugs here in the U.S. Instead of outsourcing negotiations to other countries, the Secretary of HHS should guarantee and enforce reasonable prices on behalf of the more than 100 million beneficiaries in Medicare and Medicaid right here at home,” the Senators wrote in their letter.

In 2018, Americans spent an all-time high of $360 billion on prescription drugs. According to a 2016 Consumer Reports survey, 30 percent of Americans who experienced an increase in the price of one or more of their medications left a prescription unfilled because it was too expensive; 15 percent said they cut pills in half to make them last longer.

Under current law, Medicare is constrained by the whims of the supply chain and unchecked price increases when reimbursing for prescription drug coverage, especially for sole source drugs. The Senators’ letter demands a prescription drug pricing solution that involves all parties in the prescription drug supply chain, meaningfully lowers prices, enhances affordability, protects consumers from unjustified price increases, and preserves access across both Medicare and Medicaid.

Finance Committee members, Senators Maria Cantwell, Thomas R. Carper, Ben Cardin, Michael F. Bennet, Robert P. Casey, Jr., Mark R. Warner, Sheldon Whitehouse, Margaret Wood Hassan and Catherine Cortez Masto signed onto this letter as well.

A copy of the Senators’ letter to the Finance Committee leadership can be found below and HERE:

July 11, 2019 

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Wyden:

We write in regards to the Senate Finance Committee’s efforts to address the high cost of prescription drugs. It is time for this Committee to take action and pass a set of bold legislative measures that provides Medicare and Medicaid with the tools and authority necessary to address each component of the drug supply chain and meaningfully reduce the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans.

The majority of Americans believe that the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, and more than 80 percent of seniors across party lines support giving the government the authority to negotiate prices in Medicare, especially for high-cost drugs with no competition. While we are encouraged by the Committee’s ongoing bipartisan efforts to lower the price of prescription drugs and update Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, we are concerned that the proposals currently under discussion may not go far enough in reducing the cost of prescription drug for all of our constituents. We stand with our constituents and urge you to include bold proposals that will both bring down drug prices for individuals and taxpayers.

We all agree that prescription drugs can work wonders – curing disease and helping those with chronic illnesses lead longer, healthier lives. However, none of these advancements in pharmaceuticals have value if patients are either unable to afford them or go bankrupt paying for them. All parties in the prescription drug supply chain should be a part of the solutions advanced by the Finance Committee and, ultimately, those solutions must meaningfully lower prices, enhance affordability, protect consumers from unjustified price increases, and preserve access across both Medicare and Medicaid.

This Committee has ensured the federal government is positioned to secure fair payment and patient access, from hospitals and providers to medical devices and laboratory services. Together, we have given the Secretary of HHS the authority to control costs across Medicare and Medicaid – from supporting passage of MACRA to encouraging other value-based care initiatives. When it comes to prescription drugs, however, Congress has failed to provide the Secretary of HHS with a similar set of tools to manage drug prices in the nation’s two largest health programs. For instance, under current law, Medicare is constrained by the whims of the supply chain and unchecked price increases when reimbursing for prescription drug coverage, especially for sole source drugs. We have essentially handed pharmaceutical companies, private insurers, and pharmacy benefit managers a blank check and asked them to write in the cost of doing business. As President Trump has said, “the government pays whatever price the drug companies set.”

Among other reforms, we are ready for this Committee to assert its jurisdiction over this issue and provide the Secretary of HHS with the authority to obtain fair prices within Medicare and improve access to affordable drugs in Medicaid. Our constituents should not have to rely on Executive Action or negotiations by other countries to lower the prices of prescription drugs here in the U.S. Instead of outsourcing negotiations to other countries, the Secretary of HHS should guarantee and enforce reasonable prices on behalf of the more than 100 million beneficiaries in Medicare and Medicaid right here at home.

We share your commitment to a future where all Americans can access lifesaving treatments when they need them, and we remain encouraged by the Committee’s bipartisan approach to the challenge of prescription drug prices. It is time for solutions that prioritize patients over the profits of drug companies, middlemen, and insurance companies. We hope to support a final product that ensures meaningful changes to the status quo and will truly make a difference in the lives of our constituents.

Sincerely,

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Debbie Stabenow

Senator Maria Cantwell         

Senator Thomas R. Carper

Senator Ben Cardin

Senator Michael F. Bennet

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

Senator Mark R. Warner

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Senator Margaret Wood Hassan

Senator Catherine Cortez Mastso

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