Amid rising medical debt, push for solutions to prescription drug costs

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The topic of health care took center stage in President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, 2022. Along with the president calling on Medicare to set higher standards for nursing homes ensuring seniors receive optimal care, Biden urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs and said insulin should be capped at $35 per month “to everyone can afford it.” Medicare is currently prohibited by federal law from directly negotiating drug prices with manufacturers.

According to a report, America pays 2.56 times more for prescription drugs than the rest of the world. “One in ten Americans has diabetes,” Biden said in his speech, noting that drug companies charge people “up to 30 times more” than the $10 it costs to make a vial of insulin. Biden added that with the suggested price cut, “pharmaceutical companies will still do very well” while the 200,000 young Americans with type 1 diabetes can receive the life-saving drugs they need without going into debt. .

Americans have more medical debt than previously known

Medical debt is the largest form of debt owed by Americans, and recent studies show they owe roughly twice as much as previously known, with collection agencies holding $140 billion worth of medical bills in 2020. unpaid; a huge jump from an estimated $81 billion in medical debt just four years earlier in 2016. These debts are especially larger in areas not participating in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program.

“The US bailout is helping millions of families on Affordable Care Act plans save $2,400 a year on their health care premiums,” Biden continued. “Let’s close the coverage gap and make these savings permanent.

Many are in favor of Biden’s proposal. In a recent poll, 61% of Americans agreed that cutting health care costs is the second most important priority the President and Congress need to address — second only to fixing the economy. Others, however, should resist.

Pharmaceutical lobbying organization PhRMA, in response to Biden’s speech, responded with a statement urging the president to find a “holistic” solution. It should “address abusive practices within the insurance system” while protecting the creation of new treatments and cures. The statement adds: “Allowing the government to set the price of drugs is not the solution. We know this story will end with less access to medicines and less future innovation, and we know there is a better way.

Image Credit: Arne Beruldsen/Shutterstock.com

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