Right now, Ohioans are struggling with high prices, and prescription drugs are some of the most overpriced goods that many families are forced to pay for each month. Americans pay more than three times what people in other countries pay for the same medicines.
Retirement should not mean a choice between putting food on the table and getting the prescriptions you need.
Now, after years of fighting opposition from Big Pharma, and the politicians who always do their lobbyists’ bidding, we are finally on the verge of making progress.
The Inflation Reduction Act takes on the drug companies to lower drug prices, particularly for Americans on Medicare, and will make so many things we have been fighting for years for a reality. And with the cost of living hitting retired Americans on fixed incomes particularly hard, now is the time to get this done.
My entire career, I have pushed to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices. Right now, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is banned from negotiating to get better prices for people on Medicare, the way the VA or private companies do.
This bill will finally change that, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for American seniors and even requiring the Secretary to negotiate the price of the highest cost drugs.
This bill would also put a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for older Americans and create an inflation rebate, which would require drug companies that increase the price of their drugs beyond the pace of inflation to pay a rebate to Medicare.
It is not a mistake that the current law protects big pharmaceutical corporations’ profits at the direct expense of patients. Drug companies were in the room when that law was written, and I have been fighting to fix it ever since.
So often, these companies are not creating new drugs or investing in innovation. They are simply buying the rights to existing drugs from other companies, laying off workers, raising prices by eight, nine or ten-fold – and then expecting patients, hospitals, and taxpayers to pick up the tab.
If drug companies are hiking prices at double the rate of inflation for no reason at all other than to pay their bottom line, then they need to pay that money back.
We know that the high cost of drugs is a problem, and we know how to fix it: we let Medicare negotiate, we cap out of pocket costs, and we penalize companies that price gouge.
With this bill, we are finally on the verge of taking on the drug company lobbyists and doing something about it.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.