It’s not a secret that drug prices in the United States are rising much faster than inflation. To take but one example: between 2002 and 2013, the price of insulin, a hormone that saves millions of lives every year, more than tripled.
But it’s no secret either that something can be done about it. Now the House of Representatives has introduced H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which offers a realistic solution to the problem.
AFSCME supports H.R. 3 because it would allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices, impose penalties on companies that refuse to negotiate, stop unjustified price hikes for existing medications and reinvest the savings back into Medicare.
“For too long, politicians have given pharmaceutical companies a free license to take advantage of working people and retirees,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement. “Every year, these companies rake in billions of dollars in profits for their CEOs and shareholders by price-gouging consumers. Meanwhile, millions of Americans report skipping dosages or outright forgoing medication because of exorbitant costs.”
Many AFSCME members across the country are behavioral health workers, nurses, hospital staff and other health care workers who know firsthand the harmful obstacles that high drug prices represent to their clients’ and patients’ ability to lead healthy lives. Many AFSCME members themselves struggle to afford the medications they need.
Among other things, H.R. 3 would:
- put the federal government on our side by giving it the power to negotiate directly with prescription drug corporations for lower prices;
- lower drug prices, including for insulin, whether you have a health plan through your job, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare or other insurance;
- limit negotiated prices of prescription drugs to the average of what other countries are paying for the same drugs;
- establish a $2,000 limit on out-of-pocket Medicare Part D costs for consumers (there is no limit now).
In a letter this month, AFSCME urged the Subcommittee on Health of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce to vote in favor of H.R. 3.
“Some drug corporations price gouge because they are the single source for a drug that must be available under a health plan and therefore have unchecked power to set prices,” the letter reads. “Congress must ensure that our government plays a strong role to restore balance against that unchecked power.”