Thursday, U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, D-Selma, praised the House passage of HR3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. Proponents say that the bill will bring down costs for patients and taxpayers, help level the playing field for American consumers and will allow for reinvestment in Medicare program improvements and medical innovation.
“I have heard from too many Alabamians who struggle to afford their prescription drug costs and who have been forced to make countless sacrifices because of the skyrocketing cost of their life-saving medications. HR3 is much-needed, bold and innovative legislation that will lower drug costs for all Americans,” Sewell said. “The bill finally lifts the longtime ban on Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices and makes those prices available to all Americans; institutes a new $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries; and saves taxpayers almost $500 billion over the next ten years. Those savings are reinvested in policies to improve the Medicare program and spur medical research and innovation.”
Medicare Part D is designed currently so that seniors pay roughly twenty percent of their cost for covered drugs with the company Part D plan picking up the other roughly 80 percent. Poor seniors have some of those costs picked up by Medicaid. In some cases, Seniors currently pay thousands for drugs even with their Part D coverage.
“The absence of a cap in the current Part D design means that runaway, unlimited out-of-pocket drug costs can strip seniors of their financial stability with a single diagnosis,” Sewell said. “So, I worked with Speaker Pelosi to ensure our seniors no longer have unlimited liability for out-of-pocket costs and can pay their new $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket costs in equal installments over the course of a year, instead of up front, all at once.” Sewell continued. “I was also proud to co-author a provision in the bill to ensure seniors are enrolled in the best Medicare Part D program for their individual needs, which has the potential to save seniors thousands of dollars on out-of-pocket costs for the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. In Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, there are over 100,000 people enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan and over 360,000 enrolled in private health insurance. Sewell said that all of these stand to benefit from HR3. If it passes out of Congress and is signed by the President.
The Lower Drug Costs Now Act would: give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with the drug companies to bring down prices and create powerful new tools to bring drug manufacturers to the table to agree to a maximum fair price, based on how much they cost in other countries. The bill would also make the lower drug prices negotiated by Medicare available to Americans with private insurance and Medicaid too, not just those on Medicare. The bill’s sponsors say that it protects the Medicare program and beneficiaries from excessive increases in the prices of drugs covered in Parts B and D. It also establishes a rebate penalty on companies that raise prices higher than inflation.
The Sewell provision creates a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for people on Medicare. There is currently not a cap on how much out-of-pocket costs Seniors are subjected to in Medicare.
Proponents argue that the bill would save taxpayers approximately $500 billion over the next ten years and reinvest those savings into: expanding Medicare benefits to cover dental, vision and hearing, combatting the addiction crisis, and researching new cures and treatments at the NIH and FDA.
Critics argue that anything that decreases a company’s ability to make a profit off of a medication discourages companies from investing large sums of money into developing new cures and slows medical progress, not just here but globally.
To see video of Sewell’s comments on HR3 is a