“Three people died in 2017 while rationing their insulin. Three more died in 2018. Four died in 2019, so far.” (rightcarealliance.org)
Talk to your legislators about how drug prices affect you and your family and ask them to support and strenthen H.R. 3. – “Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019″ – 2 actions below.
(from Indivisible) Drug prices are higher in America than anywhere else in the world, and as a result, 1 in 5 people won’t fill a prescription, and 1 in 10 skip doses or cut pills in half. This kind of rationing can lead to complications for untreated conditions, which cause increased healthcare costs such as hospitalization, surgery, or emergency medical care. Rationing critical drugs like insulin, marked up as much as 5000%, can also kill people. H.R. 3 – Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 is a good start to lowering drug prices because it directs the government to expand its immense buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for more than just Medicare patients. But the bill needs to be stronger. Here are things it’s missing…
- Protection of uninsured people: Any of us can lose a job. The bill currently applies the price that the government negotiates to people on private insurance and people with Medicare, but it doesn’t cover people with no insurance. Easy fix. Add them to the bill.
- Negotiate more drugs each year: H.R. 3 only requires the government to negotiate the price of 25 drugs per year starting in 2023, 30 per year in 2028, and 35 per year in 2033. What? There are thousands of drugs on the market and more every year. To give you a sense of scale, this formulary from UnitedHealthCare’s 2019 Community Plan includes approximately 1,666 drugs. The bill should be amended to quickly increase the floor on the number of negotiated drugs each year to 250.
- Make more drugs eligible for negotiation: In the bill as written, only drugs that cost the health system a lot of money and don’t have any generic or biosimilar competitors would be eligible for negotiation. That leaves out some key drugs, like EpiPen, that are still too expensive despite having generic competition. The bill should be amended to ensure that drugs that are very expensive but only serve a small population of people, and drugs that have limited generic competition, are still eligible for negotiation by the government.
- Stop drug corporations from spiking prices: H.R. 3 includes provisions to stop drug corporations from increasing the price of a drug for people on Medicare Part B or Part D by more than the rate of inflation, but the same protections don’t apply to people with private insurance. Rep. Jayapal offered an amendment to the bill to fill this gap that was approved by the Education and Labor Committee. This amendment must be preserved and strengthened in the final text of H.R. 3.
H.R. 3 currently has 86 cosponsors, all Democrats. Salud Carbajal is a cosponsor but Julia Brownley is not. What?
Action #1 – Call your congressperson!
Minimal script for Democrat non-signers [Brownley]: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep. [___] to cosponsor H.R. 3 – Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 AND improve it by supporting amendments that would protect uninsured people, negotiate more drugs, and protect people from predatory drug corporation practices like price spikes. (add personal experience if you wish.)
Minimal script for Democrat cosponsors – [Carbajal]: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Rep. [___] for supporting H.R. 3 – Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019. However, we want Rep. [___] to support amendments that would protect uninsured people, negotiate more drugs, and protect people from predatory drug corporation practices like price spikes. (add personal experience if you wish.)
Minimal script for Republicans: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep. [___] to support H.R. 3 – Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019. Polling demonstrates that people overwhelmingly support bold solutions to achieve lower drug prices, such as government negotiation. Every time a young person dies from trying to stretch out their unaffordable prescriptions, we will remember that you put drug companies over the lives of people’s family members. (add personal experience if you wish.)
Rep. Julia Brownley: (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Other Rep Contacts: www.phoneyourrep.com
Action #2 – Talk to Congresswoman Brownley at her town hall!
When: Sat. Nov. 9, 1 pm
Where: Boyd Center at Sarzotti Park, 510 Park Rd., Ojai.
Admission requirements: Event requires RSVP here.
Questions: (805) 379-1779.
(If Julia Brownley isn’t your congressperson, find a town hall with yours here.)
Sample answers to hard questions:
What about innovation? This is a big Republican sticking point. Won’t passing a bill like this guarantee that drug corporations will stop conducting research and development?
- Drug corporations like to argue that price negotiation would end drug innovation as we know it, but that just isn’t true. Public funding plays a major role in the research and development of new drugs. Of the 210 drugs approved by the FDA from 2010-2016, every single one was associated with NIH-funded research. If taxpayers are helping to fund the research that drug companies use to generate new products, drug companies should not be able to turn around and gouge those same people with high prices once the drugs reach the market.
- While drug corporations do spend a lot on research and development, these companies spend even more than that on advertising, and on stock buybacks to enrich their shareholders. Between the time the GOP Tax Scam passed in December 2017 and January 2019, drug companies announced nearly $73 billion in buybacks. Drug companies that are prioritizing growing their market and enriching their executives over affordability shouldn’t be taken seriously when they complain about being pushed to make their drugs more affordable for the people who need them.
- Addressing high prescription drug prices is an urgent and crucial issue for the millions of people who take medications to live, preserve their quality of life, or for any other reason. But that’s why it’s so important to get this right the first time — making these changes helps more people sooner, and also sustains high levels of public support .
- If we don’t prioritize passing the strongest possible bill when we have the chance, it could undermine the popularity of the negotiation program down the line — especially if voters who thought they would benefit from this bill don’t see prices decrease because they are uninsured or their private plan isn’t protected from drug price spikes. Any problem with this legislation will be used by the opposition to water it down and block future efforts to improve it or pass other legislation.
Read and Watch
This video gives a good overview of the problem.
- 2019 – Poll: Nearly 1 in 4 Americans Taking Prescription Drugs Say It’s Difficult to Afford Their Medicines (KFF)
- Almost 1 in 5 Americans Going Without Health Care (abcnews)
- To Reduce Cost, 1 in 10 Americans Don’t Take Meds as Prescribed (cancer health)
- Bernie Sanders says 1 out of 5 can’t afford prescription drugs (politifact)
- Health Insurance Aside, Americans Still Struggle to Pay for Their Medications (goodrx.com)
- ‘Our System Kills People’: 27-Year-Old Diabetic Man Latest to Die in US Amid Skyrocketing Cost of Insulin (Common Dreams)
- High insulin costs are killing Americans (rightcarealliance.org)
- Martin Shkreli, Who Raised Drug Prices 5,000 Percent, Heads into Fraud Trial (scientificamerican)