Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited the University of Rochester Medical Center 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 CEO of University of Rochester Medical Faculty Group Dr. Mike Rotondo, Chief Pharmacy Officer at University of Rochester Medical Center Dr. Curt Haas, and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, 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 families in Rochester 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.”
“Rising drug prices not only increase the out-of-pocket financial burden on patients, they drive up the cost of care across the nation’s entire health care system. We know that patients often end up in the hospital when they cannot afford to take their medications as prescribed, one of many reasons it is critical to provide people at all income levels access to the medications they need to get and stay healthy. We thank Senator Gillibrand for calling attention to this important issue,” said Mike Rotondo, MD, CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Faculty Group, Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs in the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
“The unrelenting year-over-year increase in the cost of pharmaceuticals is the fastest growing contributor to overall costs of care. Innovative drug therapies hold great potential, but dramatic increases in the price of both new and existing drugs threatens to make them inaccessible to patients and the providers who care for them. We appreciate Senator Gillibrand’s efforts, which should help reduce unwarranted barriers to care for many patients,” said Curt Haas, Pharm.D., Chief Pharmacy Officer, University of Rochester Medical Center.
“As prices rise on food, gas and other necessities, people shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can afford prescription drugs. I fully support Senator Gillibrand’s fight to pass new legislation to keep the cost of vital prescription drugs in line with what other countries pay,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “Thank you, Sen. Gillibrand, for advocating on behalf of Monroe County residents and all New Yorkers.”
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.