Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Syosset Hospital to announce her policy package to slash prescription drug prices, the “Gillibrand Prescription for Lower Drug Prices,” and pushed congressional leadership to take action on reducing drug prices.
Joined by Executive Director of Syosset Hospital Michael Fener, New York State Senator Jim Gaughran and Northwell Health Vice President and Chief Pharmacy Officer Dr. Onisis Stefas, Sen. Gillibrand outlined the tenets of the bill package, which would help tackle the high cost of prescription drugs.
“While our nation is recovering from the pandemic, drug prices remain unacceptably high, which puts a heavy financial burden on older adults and families on Long Island and across the country,” said Senator Gillibrand, member of the Aging Committee. “I am releasing the ‘Gillibrand Prescription for Lower Drug Prices’ plan to provide a framework for slashing drug prices. From fighting price gouging to importing affordable drugs from Canada to enabling Medicare to negotiate drug prices, this plan will help us bring down costs for countless Americans.”
“At Northwell Health we see medications as an investment in the health and wellbeing of our patients and communities we serve,” said Dr. Stefas. “The Prescription Drug Pricing Bills Package has been designed to focus on making medications more affordable to the American people. Reducing the financial burden associated with prescription drugs will result in more patients getting access to the medications they need, adhering to their medication regimen and ultimately reducing overall healthcare expense.”
“Prescription drug prices are through the roof, making it difficult for millions of elderly and vulnerable Americans to control serious health issues,” said New York State Sen. Gaughran. “I applaud Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to reign in out-of-control prescription drug prices and offer any assistance that I can provide on the state level.”
The core pieces of the “Gillibrand Prescription for Lower Drug Prices” are:
Reimagine financial assistance for Medicare. Legislation to create the Medicare Cost Assistance Program, a new, streamlined program to provide assistance with Medicare Part A and Part B premiums and cost-sharing for low-income individuals. This would reimagine financial assistance for Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D. The legislation would also expand and streamline administration of the Extra Help program to provide premium and cost-sharing assistance to eligible low-income individuals with Medicare Part D.
Review brand-name price gouging. Legislation that would level the market for Americans purchasing prescription drugs by pegging the price in the United States to the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan.
Empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices. A bill that directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.
Import lower-cost drugs from Canada. Legislation to allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.
Expand subsidies to seniors living in U.S. territories. Legislation that would make Medicare beneficiaries in U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, eligible for the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy program. Under current law, low-income Medicare beneficiaries in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are ineligible for Medicare Part D subsidies. This program, known as “Extra Help,” provides federal subsidies to help low-income seniors with their monthly premiums and other out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.
Under current law, the secretary of HHS is prohibited from negotiating lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. In contrast, other government programs, like Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are allowed to negotiate. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, Medicare paid twice as much for the same prescription drugs as the VA in 2017.
In 2020, five of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. made nearly $45 billion in profits. That same year, in the midst of a twin public health and economic crisis, drug makers raised the prices of more than 860 prescription drugs by 5%, on average. In 2020, the average annual cost of therapy for widely used specialty drugs was more than $84,000. This is nearly three times the median income for people on Medicare and more than four and half times the average Social Security retirement benefit.