Assembly Bill 250 would have capped the costs of many prescription drugs at Medicare rates for all Nevadans, regardless of their age. (Getty Images)
On August 29th, Medicare took a huge step toward making prescription drugs more affordable for Americans age 65 and older. Here in Nevada, Gov. Joe Lombardo squandered an important opportunity to make prescription drugs more affordable for residents of any age in our state.
When Lombardo vetoed Assembly Bill 250 in June, he rejected a plan that would have capped the costs of many prescription drugs at Medicare rates for all Nevadans, regardless of their age. Doctors across Nevada had repeatedly called for passage of the legislation and urged Lombardo to sign AB 250 so patients squeezed by skyrocketing health care costs would get some relief.
Now, as the provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that allows Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices kicks into gear, we’re reminded of how AB 250 could have benefited people of all ages across the state. On August 29th, the Biden administration announced the first ten medicines that Medicare will be able to negotiate on with pharmaceutical companies.
These medicare drug pricing negotiations are an essential component of our nation’s efforts to make health care more affordable. This step is expected to reduce prices for certain drugs by 25 to 60 percent, depending on the age of the drug. However, these price caps will only impact people who qualify for Medicare. By extending these negotiated price caps to non-Medicare recipients in Nevada, AB 250 would have provided savings on prescription drugs to Nevadans younger than 65 who do not qualify yet for Medicare.
AB 250 would have helped Nevadans afford medications to get healthy and stay healthy, to manage chronic conditions and to recover from injuries and illnesses. It would have given my patients peace of mind knowing they can pay for a medication that can help them better manage a behavioral health condition, or keep arthritis in check, or control asthma, or overcome any number of physical, emotional or mental health challenges. In the process, they could return to work, earn a paycheck, care for their families, live rewarding lives and give back to their communities.
Physicians like me are deeply concerned about the significant harm of allowing prescription drug prices to keep rising unchecked. We see firsthand how expensive prescription drug costs force our patients to split pills, skip their medication and ration their care. In our clinics and exam rooms, doctors and medical professionals must care for patients who aren’t taking their medications as prescribed because they can’t pay for them. We see too many diabetic patients ration their insulin because of costs, which can be deadly. We see too many patients on blood thinners who skip their medications because they’re unaffordable, even though doing so carries serious risks.
Drugs don’t work if people can’t take them — and too many Nevadans are not taking their vital medications because they cost too much.
Already, Nevadans suffer from among the fastest rising health care costs in the nation. As a result, 1 in 3 people say they have to split their pills or skip doses. Nevadans are suffering needlessly, making impossible choices between paying for medicine and getting groceries.
Meanwhile, drug companies raised prices on nearly 1,000 medications this year alone and reported correspondingly high profits this quarter. Merck pocketed $15 billion, a $450-million increase over last year, while quietly rewarding its shareholders with $300 million in stock buybacks this summer. Eli Lilly took in $8.3 billion this quarter – nearly $2 billion more than the second quarter of 2022. AstraZeneca hauled in $11.4 billion this quarter. Johnson & Johnson announced $25.53 billion in profits, $900 million more than its expected revenue. Despite these massive profits, Big Pharma is suing to block Medicare from negotiating lower prices so it can continue to make tens of billions of dollars in profits even when patients and their families can’t afford life saving medications.
Lombardo’s veto protects drug companies’ massive profits and denies my patients access to affordable drugs. Instead of holding drug corporations accountable and fixing a broken status quo, Lombardo abandoned patients and families across the state who are struggling to afford the prescriptions they need just to live.
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