Legislative Update: April/May 2020

Legislative Update: April/May 2020

Will Legislation to Reduce Drug Prices Make it into Law?

By Shannon Benton, Executive Director

The affordability of prescription drugs is a key issue for older Americans.  A survey by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundations has found that one-in-four people can’t afford to pay for their medications.  This is especially true for Medicare beneficiaries, many of whom must take multiple prescriptions every day.

Americans often pay at least two times more than patients in other developed countries for the same drug, according to an October 2018 report from the Department of Health and Human Services.  House legislation, The Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices by tying prices to an international drug reference price.  The bill passed in the House but is awaiting further action in the Senate.  In addition to lowering drug prices, the bill would provide an out-of-pocket spending limit on prescription drugs for beneficiaries, starting at $2,000.

The Senate has its own bill that would require rebates from drug makers if prices exceed the rate of inflation, and would set a Part D annual out-of-pocket spending cap for patients starting at $3,100.  The bipartisan Senate bill passed the Senate Finance Committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate, but the Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, (KY) has not scheduled it for a vote.  With public pressure, that could change, so please contact your Senators and ask them to help move this legislation!

Of the provisions to cut prescription drug costs, we think that capping out-of-pocket spending for Medicare beneficiaries appears to be the most likely to be added to other government spending bills this year.  The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is lobbying hard against provisions that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices though, especially using an international reference price system, and the outcome of that provision is more uncertain.

In coming days, TSCL will continue to work with Members for enactment of prescription drug legislation that will help lower costs for Medicare recipients.  For progress updates on our work, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter or visit our homepage at www.SeniorsLeague.org.