One clear indication that the new law is going to stop price gouging is that the Big Pharma companies are lining up to stop negotiations. (Photo: Getty Images)
After years of working at the DMV, I’m enjoying my retirement here in Nevada with my husband, who retired after serving as a Commercial Enforcement Trooper with the Nevada Highway Patrol. But like so many seniors and retirees, I can’t help but worry about the skyrocketing and unpredictable cost of prescription drugs. As we age, I know our medical needs could increase and take an even larger bite out of our retirement income and savings.
That’s why I’m relieved to finally see Congress take action to lower drug prices and rein in drug corporations’ price gouging in Medicare. Drug manufacturers have raised the price of many brand-name drugs faster than inflation for over a decade, making even basic medicines unaffordable while raking in record profits.
My husband and I are generally in good health, so we’ve been spared the debt, worry, and sacrifice that many of our aging friends and neighbors have had to endure just to get the medicines they need to take care of themselves. But we can’t always control our health needs.
A decade ago, Bob developed atrial fibrillation and was prescribed the blood thinner Warfarin to manage his condition. For years, we got Warfarin with no co-pay under our Part D plan. But recently, Bob’s doctor switched him from Warfarin to a new medicine, Xarelto, one of the most expensive medicines in Medicare Part D and the most expensive prescription in our household. Xarelto costs us $141 a month compared to our $0 copay for his old prescription.
Fortunately, Xarelto is on the list of the first ten medicines that will be included in Medicare price negotiations over the coming few years. Price negotiations will take away the drug industry’s monopoly power to set whatever price they want and raise it anytime. In just a couple of years, as many as 9 million Americans and over 60 thousand Nevadans on Medicare will benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act’s price negotiations. Over the next four years, Medicare will negotiate the prices of up to 60 drugs covered under Part D and Part B and up to 20 additional drugs every year after that.
In addition to negotiating drug prices, the new law also penalizes corporations that raise their prices faster than inflation by making them pay a rebate back to Medicare for the overcharged amount, rather than passing those inflated prices on to patients and taxpayers. Speaking of patients, the law also for the first time ever caps what patients are required to pay out of pocket for prescriptions to $2,000. In 2020 alone, nearly 70% of Medicare Part D enrollees spent between $2,000 and $3,000 out of pocket on prescription medications.
The new law has other benefits like a $35 a month cap on insulin costs and an expansion of the vaccines that are covered for free under Medicare, including pneumonia and shingles shots that patients previously had to pay for even with insurance.
It will take a few years to implement all these benefits, but ultimately millions of Americans are going to get much-needed relief. One clear indication that the new law is going to stop price gouging is the fact that Big Pharma companies are lining up to stop negotiations. Drug corporations like Merck and Johnson & Johnson, along with their industry lobby group PhRMA and the US Chamber of Commerce have filed nine lawsuits to overturn the new Medicare negotiations law and protect their profits. Some of their Republican allies in Congress are helping them by introducing bills to repeal the law or gut the price-cutting provisions. The Biden Administration is taking on these corporate price-gougers in court to ensure that the lower drug costs they passed into law will be delivered to the millions who need them.
Medicare negotiations and other reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act are broadly popular among people of all ages, geographies, and political parties. These common-sense reforms lower prices, increase peace of mind, and improve health. It’s about time we see lower drug prices in Medicare and that we spread the affordability to millions more people who need prescriptions to take care of themselves and their families.
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