As pharmaceutical companies have implemented price increases on hundreds of prescription drugs, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has announced her set of policies aimed at reducing the cost of drugs during a press conference at the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York (KCS) in Flushing on Monday, March 28.
Gillibrand was joined by Queens MP Grace Meng, Councilwoman Linda Lee, Ravi Reddi, Associate Director of Advocacy and Policy at the Asian American Federation (AAF), and Myoungmi Kim, President and CEO of KCS , for a tour of the facility, located at 42-15 166th St.
According to Gillibrand, the price increase adds to the already high costs that New Yorkers already face today.
“When you go to the pharmacy, you can be charged two to three times as much as people in other countries for the exact same drug,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Committee on Aging. “Health care is a human right, not a privilege. But right now, life-saving drugs only save lives if you can afford it, and that needs to change.
Gillibrand sent a letter to the leadership of Congress calling for comprehensive action on lowering drug costs and outlined his plan, “Gillibrand’s Prescription for Lower Drug Prices” which includes five major bills:
Reinvent financial assistance for Medicare: An invoice 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 people. This would reinvent financial assistance for Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D. The legislation would also expand and streamline the administration of the Supplemental Assistance program to provide premium and cost-sharing assistance to eligible low-income individuals with Medicare Part D.
Investigate brand price gouging: A invoice it would level the market for Americans buying prescription drugs by bringing the price in the United States closer to the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan.
Empowering Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices: A bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.
Import cheaper drugs from Canada: A invoice enable patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe and affordable drugs from Canada and other major countries.
Expand subsidies to seniors living in US territories: A invoice this would make Medicare beneficiaries in US 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 not eligible for Medicare Part D subsidies. This program, known as “Additional Assistance,” provides federal grants to help low-income seniors pay their monthly premiums and other prescription drug costs.
According to Gillibrand, 30% of adults are not taking their medications as prescribed due to rising costs. The problem, says Gillibrand, weighs heavily on the elderly.
“Nearly 9 in 10 seniors take prescription drugs and 1 in 4 seniors say it’s too hard to afford them. Even with help from Medicare, the share of prescription drug costs that seniors are responsible for can be overwhelming on a fixed income,” Gillibrand said. “Medicare is also facing rising costs.
Under current law, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is prohibited from negotiating lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. In contrast, other government programs , such as Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are authorized to negotiate.
According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, 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 United States made nearly $45 billion in profits. That same year, amid a dual health and economic crisis, drugmakers raised the prices of more than 860 prescription drugs by an average of 5%. In 2020, the average annual treatment cost for widely used specialty drugs was over $84,000.
“That’s nearly three times the median income of people on Medicare and more than four and a half times the average Social Security retirement benefit,” Kim said.
Lee, Meng, Reddi and Kim applauded Gillibrand’s efforts to improve the affordability of prescription drug prices.
Lee, who previously worked as president and CEO of KCS, said seniors, especially those in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, struggle not only with the cost of health insurance disease and prescription drugs, but also with access to these programs to begin with. .
“Senator Gillibrand’s bill will help clamp down on runaway pharmaceutical prices, make the U.S. prescription drug market more competitive, and make it easier for low-income Medicare beneficiaries to receive the help they need.” need without having to navigate. a complex bureaucracy full of red tape,” Lee said, thanking Gillibrand and KCS social workers who help seniors maintain stable, dignified and affordable lifestyles.
As they continue to fight for legislation that will ease the burden on so many Americans, Meng said drug prices are just too high for families.
“Americans shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifesaving drugs and other necessities,” said Meng, who also called on the Biden administration to use the president’s executive powers to implement a number of quick fixes to help millions of Americans. “Families across the country deserve access to affordable medicine.
According to Reddi, Asian seniors make up 14% of the city’s senior population, and the number of poor Asian seniors has increased by more than 60% in the past decade – the largest percentage increase of any major racial group. . Among older people living in poverty, almost a third live alone and nearly 80% have limited English proficiency.
“We applaud the senator’s efforts to address the affordability of prescription drug prices and it can’t happen too soon. In addition to a pandemic and relentless anti-Asian hatred, older people continue to struggle to have their basic needs met,” Reddi said. “As our city and state contemplate pandemic recovery, our community is still in deep crisis – and the elderly, the most vulnerable members of our community, continue to be sidelined.”