Update for May 22, 2021

Update for May 22, 2021

President Will Not Propose Lowering Drug Prices in His Budget

When he ran for President last year Joe Biden made fixing health care, including Medicare and Medicaid, part of his campaign.  Since becoming President, he has called on Congress to approve a plan to allow Medicare to lower spending on prescription drug costs and to strengthen Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately, the President’s budget request, which will be released at the end of this week, will not include specific policies or cost estimates to advance these measures according to our sources in Washington.

We are very disappointed that this is the case but the fact remains that lowering drug prices remains extremely popular because everyone hates high drug prices.

That’s why TSCL will continue our work with members of Congress to get legislation introduced to lower those prices.  We believe that if we can get drug price-reduction legislation through Congress the President will sign it.

However, we need your continued support to get Congress to take action.  As we reported last week, Democrats in the House of Representatives are divided on what kind of legislation they will support and Republicans have refused to support any legislation the Democrats have passed to lower drug prices.

In the Senate, there is bi-partisan legislation that would help lower prices but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked it last year when he was Majority Leader, and he still opposes it.

So, seniors must work together to pressure Congress to get legislation passed to solve this crisis.  That’s why we need you to support our efforts on your behalf.

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Sanders Hopes to Fix Doctor Shortage

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has announced that he will seek legislation to increase the number of doctors being trained in the U.S.

Sanders, who is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced last week that he’ll introduce legislation to add 14,000 Medicare graduate medical education slots over seven years, potentially training thousands of new doctors each year.

As chairman of that subcommittee he is perfectly placed to get legislation introduced and sent to the Senate floor for a vote.

According to Bloomberg News, “Public health groups say the U.S. faces a shortage of at least 54,000 primary care and specialty doctors over the next decade.

“Sanders said his legislation would reserve half of the new slots to train new primary care doctors.

“David J. Skorton, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), said his group has asked for 3,000 slots to be added each year to Medicare’s graduate education program. That program, along with others, pays hospitals to train medical school graduates to become doctors.”

The U.S. is facing a doctor shortage because the 65-and-older population grew by over a third (13,787,044 people) during the past decade, putting pressure on the U.S. health system. At the same time, 40% of active physicians will reach 65 in the next 10 years, putting many into retirement, according to AAMC data.

This is important legislation that must be passed soon since it takes many years to fully train doctors.  TSCL looks forward to reviewing Senator Sanders’ bill when it is introduced.

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Drug Company Head Faces Grilling Over Massive Increases in Drug Prices

Last week we reported that Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, was going to hold a hybrid hearing to examine the pricing and business practices of AbbVie Inc., which sells the anti-inflammatory drug Humira and the cancer drug Imbruvica.

Humira is the best-selling drug in the United States and the world and Maloney wanted to find out why its manufacturer, AbbVie, has raised its price 27 times since launching Humira in 2003.  Humira is now priced at $2,984 per syringe, or $77,586 annually—a 470% increase from when the drug entered the market.

AbbVie, and its partner Janssen Biotech, Inc., have also raised the price of Imbruvica nine times since launching the drug in 2013.  Today, Imbruvica is priced at $181,529 per year for a patient taking three pills per day, as compared to $99,776 per year at launch.

Again, Maloney wanted to know why such huge price increases took place.

According to a report in The Hill newspaper, Democrats on her committee accused the company of “taking advantage of patients and the health care system to charge more for medicine and bring in billions of dollars for revenue and executive bonuses.”

“You haven’t made the drug any better even as you doubled the cost,” Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) said during the hearing. “You’re feeding us lies that we must pay astronomical prices to get innovative products.”

In her closing remarks, Chairwoman Maloney said, “But the facts showed that AbbVie raised prices on Americans for one simple reason: greed.”

She added that AbbVie pushed for escalated prices in the U.S. because Medicare does not have the ability to negotiate lower drug prices, while other nations could.

Committee member Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), asked the drug company representative, “How can you defend American prices of pharmaceuticals overseas versus the prices on drugs in the nation that you love?”

“Your answers to the chair were evasive at best and appear to be obviously written by attorneys,” Higgins said.

TSCL is pleased that members of Congress are looking seriously at the problem of the outrageous costs of prescription drugs.  Evidence like this will aid us in our efforts to get legislation to reduce drug prices.

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Despite the coronavirus emergency, TSCL is continuing its fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.  We have had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.

For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org, follow TSCL on Twitter or Facebook.