Legislative Update for Week Ending September 25, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 25, 2015

This week, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) endorsed a new piece of legislation that would reduce the soaring prices of prescription drugs. In addition, one key bill gained critical support.

TSCL Endorses New Prescription Drug Bill

This week, TSCL announced its support for the Prescription Drug Affordability Act (S. 2023, H.R. 3513), which was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-7). The bill, if signed into law, would take a number of steps to comprehensively reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

Among other things, it would: require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries; allow for the re-importation of drugs from Canada, where they are usually much cheaper; close the “doughnut hole” gap in Part D coverage three years earlier than current law would; and prohibit “pay-for-delay” deals, where brand-name manufacturers pay generic drug manufacturers to delay the introduction of their products to the market.

Upon introducing the bill, Congressman Cummings said, “In light of 1,000 percent price increases – and more – American families are fed up with trying to afford their medications … This common sense and comprehensive bill will reverse this alarming trend, help put people before profits, and make lifesaving drugs more affordable and accessible to millions of American families.”

TSCL agrees that action must be taken immediately to slow the growth in prescription drug costs. One TSCL member, Millicent Graves of Virginia, recently told us that her generic medication jumped in price from $35 to $627 – an increase of 1,691 percent – in less than one year. She said, “When I looked at the receipt, I almost passed out. Everything is the same as the first bottle! Where is the money going? I think the government needs to investigate.”

The Prescription Drug Affordability Act would do just that by requiring manufacturers to disclose information on what affects drug pricing, like research and development costs or clinical trials.

TSCL supports the bill enthusiastically since we believe it would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security Medicare beneficiaries deserve. We look forward to working with Senator Sanders and Congressman Cummings closely in the coming months to help build support for their critical new bill.

Key Bill Gains Cosponsors

This week, five new cosponsors signed on to the CPI-E Act (H.R. 3351), bringing the total up to ten. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Matt Cartwright (PA-17), David Cicilline (RI-1), Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2), and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-1).

The bill, if adopted, would base cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) on an inflation index specifically for senior citizens. Currently, COLAs are based on the inflation experienced by young, urban workers, using the CPI-W. It underestimates the spending inflation seniors experience each year since it fails to capture their costs of medical care, housing, and prescription drugs. If adopted, the CPI-E Act would result in more fair and accurate COLAS for seniors. TSCL was pleased to see support grow for it this week.