Chippewa Valley health care advocates gathered Tuesday to proclaim their support for a bill they said would deliver something Americans have demanded for years.
The bill’s purpose is spelled out in its name — the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.
House Democrats passed a bill last week to lower the cost of prescription drugs by giving the federal government the power to negotiate lower prices for hundreds of medications in Medicare.
Many seniors and other residents struggle to afford rising prescription drug prices, with some choosing to go without needed medications or taking partial doses because of the unaffordable cost, said Rita Simon, a retired doctor from Chippewa Falls.
“No one should have to choose between life-saving drugs and putting food on their table,” Simon said at a news conference organized by the progressive group Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
But to the dismay of Simon and other advocates at the event at UW-Eau Claire, Republicans already have declared the measure “dead on arrival” in the Senate and the White House has signaled that GOP President Donald Trump would veto it if the bill came to his desk.
State Sen. Jeff Smith, D-town of Brunswick, characterized the decision as Trump breaking his campaign promise to work toward lowering drug prices and to allow Medicare to “negotiate like crazy.”
Smith said the GOP opposition likely is just to deny the Democrats a victory and another sign of the partisan divide in Washington, D.C.
However, Trump re-election campaign spokeswoman Anna Kelly defended the president.
“President Trump has delivered on his promises to fix our broken health care system — as evidenced by the first drop in prescription drug prices in 45 years,” Kelly said, referring to a Consumer Price Index measure of some drug expenditures. “This includes working to pass the bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, which would lower out-of-pocket costs and pay for critical health programs across the country without any additional cost to the taxpayer.”
Among other provisions, that bill would establish a new $3,100 out-of-pocket cap on drug spending in Medicare Part D and require rebates from manufacturers payable to the government if certain drug prices grow faster than inflation.
Smith said the Democratic bill, in addition to saving consumers money on prescriptions, would save the federal government $345 billion. Simon added that the bill also could reduce the gap between the prices Americans pay for many drugs and the lower prices paid by consumers in other countries for the same medications.
The pharmaceutical industry is opposed to the legislation, maintaining it would stifle innovation, the Washington Post reported this week.
“Legislators give Big Pharma all the power to continually raise their prices, yet we the people and taxpayers are the ones footing the bill,” Simon said, calling the Democratic bill a “reasonable solution to a problem that hurts so many people in Wisconsin and all across the country.”