Granite Staters Now is the time to cut prescription drug costs / Public News Service

Advocates for older Americans are urging Congress to take action to reduce drug prices, particularly by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies.

The Build Back Better Act would have done just that, while capping out-of-pocket spending for seniors and imposing tax penalties on pharmaceutical companies for excessive prices. The legislation stalled in the US Senate after the House passed it last year.

In New Hampshire, the average annual cost of prescription drug treatment increased by more than a quarter from 2015 to 2019, but residents’ annual income increased only 9%.

Jennifer Delaney, deputy director of state advocacy, AARP New Hampshire, said price inflation is hurting Granite Staters.

“A lot of people can’t afford their medications,” Delaney observed. “They have a choice between heating their house, putting food on the table, or taking their life-saving prescription drugs. And I’m talking about people who have cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes.”

Delaney pointed out that when people ration their medications or skip doses, it can have negative health effects and even lead to hospitalization. She added that according to the Congressional Budget Office, drug pricing measures passed by the House would save the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades.

Megan O’Reilly, vice president of federal health and government family affairs for AARP, said the Senate Finance Committee recently held a hearing on the urgent need to reduce drug prices. Opponents argued it would hurt innovation, but O’Reilly noted that support for negotiating Medicare is high across the political spectrum.

“Taxpayers bear the burden of these increased prices, but they have also paid to help with the research and development of these,” O’Reilly argued. “And yet, there is no check on the pharmaceutical industry, as they continue to raise these rates, really, on the wallets of families in New Hampshire and across the country.”

More than 85% of respondents to an AARP survey said Congress needs to take action to lower drug prices. More than 75% of Democrats and more than 50% of Republicans said they would look more favorably on a political candidate who supports cutting drug costs.

Disclosure: AARP New Hampshire contributes to our fund for reporting on policy and budget priorities, health issues, and seniors’ issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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