NEWS FROM Washington » Adam SCHIFF

The House is Taking Action to Lower Prescription Drug Prices


Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world, and it’s not even close. Millions of Americans who rely on prescription drugs to stay healthy, or even to stay alive, struggle to afford the life-saving drugs they need. One in four Americans report financial hardship in paying for their medications. That simply shouldn’t be the case, and it doesn’t have to be.

Rising drug prices are a problem that has continued to get worse, not better. For instance, the cost of insulin, a lifesaving drug for diabetics that has existed for decades, nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016. And in the first week of 2020, pharmaceutical companies raised the prices of 524 prescription drugs, with more than 70% of those medications not having cheaper, generic alternatives available. This is unacceptable. Access to life-saving prescription drugs should never be cost-prohibitive or force Americans to choose between treatment and putting food on the table.

The Democratic House Majority has made taking action on prescription drug prices a top priority. Last month, I joined my colleagues in passing H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. This historic piece of legislation, named for my recently departed colleague Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, would be the most groundbreaking reforms to our drug pricing system ever. It would force pharmaceutical companies to come to the table by empowering Medicare to negotiate a lower price and to extend that price to people who get their health insurance through private insurance, cap annual out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 for prescription drugs in Medicare, put downward pressure on the costs of all medication, and invest in innovative new cures and treatments.

The bill would also make it harder for companies to prevent other manufacturers from selling their generic form of a drug and includes even stronger penalties for companies that raise the prices of drugs at a rate higher than that of inflation. In our congressional district alone, there are 98,810 people enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan and 452,824 people enrolled in private health insurance – all of whom will benefit from the savings assured by this legislation.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that H.R. 3 would save $5 billion over 10 years, and that it would use those savings to help seniors afford the drugs they need. As a result of the savings from lower prices of commonly-used drugs, H.R. 3 provides the most transformational expansion of Medicare in many years by establishing coverage for dental, vision and hearing benefits – filling longstanding gaps in care for seniors. Tens of thousands of seniors in our district alone would benefit from the addition of a dental benefit in Medicare.

Beyond these new benefits, H.R. 3 would invest more than $10 billion in the National Institutes of Health for biomedical research for the purpose of advancing breakthrough cures. It would also provide new resources to confront the opioid epidemic and to strengthen funding for community health centers.

Lowering prescription drug costs has been a top issue for decades, and it’s time that Congress act. The Lower Drug Costs Now Act lays out a vision for how House Democrats would like to remake prescription drug pricing in this country and shows how we can make good on a promise to deliver life-changing savings for patients, employers and taxpayers. I am proud that we in the House have taken bold action in passing this transformative bill. It is now time for my colleagues in the Senate to do their job and bring the Lower Drug Costs Now Act up for a vote. We can make sure that no American is forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying for the drugs they need to live. We can do better.