Update Week Ending March 19, 2022

Update Week Ending March 19, 2022

Pressure Mounts for Presidential Actions on Drug Prices

When it comes to seniors’ issues, the main focus of Congress continues to be on the high cost of prescription drugs.  The Republicans in the Senate continue to unanimously refuse to support the broad legislation put forth by Democrats that includes provisions to reduce drug prices, and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) still has not agreed to the bill, meaning there are not enough Democratic votes to pass it.

Democratic leaders in the Senate are negotiating with Manchin to see if they can make the changes he seeks so they can pass the bill this year but so far, there has been no breakthrough.

Because of the impasse, there is a group of nearly 100 liberal Democratic members in the House who are urging President Biden to issue executive orders insofar as he can, to lower drug prices.  While that is one way to overcome Congressional deadlock, it may be only temporary.

That’s because executive orders by one President can easily be overturned by another, or by the courts.

President Obama signed 276 executive orders and hundreds of presidential memoranda during his eight years in office, while President Trump issued 220 executive orders during his single term.

President Biden has issued 84 executive orders so far and in his first days in office he overturned many Trump-era policies.

Democrats prefer to pass legislation that would make the drug-price reductions permanent, but if negotiations with Senator Manchin continue to prove fruitless, it becomes more likely that the President will issue some sort of executive orders.

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Senate Vote on Insulin Legislation Expected Soon

Because legislation on over-all drug pricing is stalled, new legislation has been offered by Senator Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) to specifically lower the price of insulin.

Last week he said he’s hoping to get his bill through committee and onto the Senate floor by Easter, which falls on April 17 this year.

Warnock’s bill (S. 3700) would cap consumers’ out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 per month without changing the price drug makers charge for insulin. It would apply only to those who have insurance.

The bill currently has 29 co-sponsors, all Democrats or senators who caucus with Democrats. Although Warnock has said he thinks the idea ought to garner bipartisan support, so far no Republicans have signaled they will support it, even though a few of them have expressed concern about insulin prices in the past.  However, this is an election year and it appears Republicans have no intention of supporting legislation that would give Democrats a legislative victory no matter how much it is supported by the public.

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Insurance Companies Sue Walgreens for Overcharging for Drugs

A number of health insurance companies, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield units are suing Walgreens, alleging that the company has been engaged in a fraudulent scheme to overcharge for prescription drugs by submitting claims for payment at inflated prices and made false statements to conceal the scheme.

Walgreens has overcharged the plaintiffs hundreds of millions of dollars, the plaintiffs said in a Tuesday complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

According to the suit, Walgreens created a program under which it submitted usual and customary prices to the insurance companies that were “five, ten, or twenty times higher” than what cash customers paid.

Walgreens knowingly and wrongfully overcharged the insurance companies by submitting false and inflated usual and customary prices to the plaintiffs, the complaint says.

It also intentionally concealed from the companies the actual cash prices offered to members of the general public by making false statements and omitting material facts, the complaint says.

We want to stress that, like anyone who is sued in court, those who are suing have to prove their case and the fact that there is a lawsuit doesn’t mean the things they are charging are true.

But with so many Americans struggling to pay for the drugs they need, and with legislation to lower drug prices held up in Congress, it is troubling to hear about this.  Like so many cases involving large corporations, this case is likely to go on for a very long time and could eventually be settled out of court.

However, it reinforces our belief that Congress needs to act to lower drug prices, and reinforces our determination to fight as hard as we can to make that happen.

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As we continue dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic, TSCL remains constant in our fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We’ve 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 our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org or follow TSCL Facebook or on Twitter.