Bill would reduce prescription drug prices, too bad GOP is blocking it

health care

Amid the ongoing health care debate in Washington, the House of Representatives will soon consider game-changing legislation that would provide relief to the American public from the high costs of prescription drugs. Named after the late representative from Baltimore, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) would reduce the prices of prescription drugs nationwide. The bill would give Medicare leverage to negotiate for lower drug prices, potentially lowering drug prices by up to 55% and saving American patients $158 billion.

But while H.R. 3 would improve the lives of thousands of Nevadans by lowering costs and expanding access to lifesaving medications, it faces opposition from President Trump and Republican members of Congress in both the House and Senate. Republicans in the House have tried to block and obstruct the passage of H.R. 3 at every step, and Senator Mitch McConnell has declared it dead on arrival in the Senate.

Republican opposition to the bill comes as no surprise considering the exorbitant spending by drug manufacturers to protect the status quo. Though Trump made a campaign promise to allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies, his administration has refused to do so, instead putting former drug executives in charge of health care policy. And after giving billions in tax breaks to the biggest drug companies last year, Republicans voted against Medicare drug price negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee this past summer. These actions make it clear: Republicans in Washington aren’t fighting for families and consumers back home.

There is much at stake for Americans in this bill. H.R. 3 could stop unjustified price gouging for thousands of medications, including inexplicably expensive ones like insulin. Not only will those on Medicare benefit from the projected savings, but the lower prices would apply to anyone purchasing prescription drugs no matter how they are insured. Prices would go down for those who get insurance from employers. Whether you’re a child with asthma, a teen with diabetes, or a young parent with a rare illness, this bill will bring drug prices down for everyone.

No longer will drug companies be able to charge Americans double and triple the price for prescription drugs that are significantly less expensive in other countries. The bill also includes penalties if manufacturers keep the system rigged and prices high. It’s to be expected that the pharmaceutical industry has launched an aggressive campaign to defeat the bill. Drug companies are spending millions of dollars and have deployed hundreds of lobbyists to prevent its passage.

Though the bill is not popular with drug companies, it is popular with the American people. A recent national poll conducted by Hart Research also shows that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum support H.R. 3. And the bill has the numbers to back it up, too: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Centers for Medicare (CMS) Office of the Actuary confirmed that H.R. 3 will reduce drug prices by up to 55% and save patients and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few years. It will save consumers approximately $158 billion over the next few years and save taxpayers $345 billion.

With the bill on its way to the House floor for a vote, we can be proud in Nevada that our Democratic Congressional House representatives Steven Horsford, Susie Lee and Dina Titus are leading the fight to pass it. Time and again, Americans rank health care costs – specifically prescription drug costs – as the number one issue they care about, and now our representatives in Congress are taking action. With their support, Nevadans will have greater access to prescription drugs without worrying about whether or not they can afford it.

The big drug companies have spent billions to rig the system to keep prices high and their profits up. For too long, too many Nevada families have stayed up at night worrying about rising prescription drug prices and choosing between getting their medication or paying their rent. That ends with this bill.

Yvanna Cancela
Yvanna Cancela is a Nevada state senator representing District 10 in Clark County.