Disclosures: Kuwahara is National Vice Chair of the Policy and Advocacy Committee of the American Medical Women’s Association and National Vice Chair of Doctors for America’s Access to Affordable Care Impact Area, advocating for prescription drug affordability and access to care, but the opinions expressed in this article are entirely his own. She also currently sits on the Board of Healio Primary Care Peer Perspective.
We are about to take some of the most important steps in recent history to make medicines more affordable for our patients, and it is essential that we successfully pass the legislation necessary to achieve this as a matter of fairness. in health.
Health-related provisions in the budget reconciliation package currently being considered by the US Senate include allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for a small handful of prescription drugs, protecting Medicare beneficiaries from out-of-pocket expenses of more $2,000 a year in prescription drugs and the guarantee that the cost of prescription drugs will not rise faster than the rate of inflation.
In addition, this legislation proposes to extend health insurance premium subsidies for middle-class families who purchase their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace through 2025. This will prevent families from losing their health insurance or having to pay excessively high premiums for their coverage once the current premium subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan expire at the end of this year.
These provisions represent excellent first steps in making medicines more affordable for our patients, and although the current version of the proposed legislation is narrower in scope than some of the provisions previously proposed last year, we must act quickly to advance this legislation.
Our patients, who are already grappling with rising costs of day-to-day expenses and continuing to experience an ongoing pandemic, need access to affordable medicines and health care now, and it is essential that our members of Congress come together to pass this legislation for the health of our nation.
The United States spends more money on prescription drugs than any other country, and with one in four people in our country reporting difficulty getting their medications, national polls have repeatedly shown that regardless of their political affiliation, an overwhelming majority of people in our country believe steps need to be taken to improve drug affordability.
Among the general population, there is strong bipartisan public support for allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Also, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for a small subset of drugs is not a new concept, because price negotiation for prescription drugs already takes place within the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the economies generated from negotiated drug prices can be used to fund other health priorities.
Access to affordable medicines is not a political issue, and our patients cannot wait a moment longer to access the medicines that will keep them healthy and able to care for their families and contribute to productive way to our communities and our nation.
A person never chooses to get sick, and if that person is unfortunate enough to get sick, their ability to fully recover should not depend on how much money they have in the bank or what coverage their health plan provides. ‘Health Insurance.
It is shocking that in a country as wealthy as ours, we force people to choose between paying for their medicine and feeding their families, often resulting in those with fewer financial resources experiencing health problems and preventable deaths. As a society, we must put people first over profits, and that starts with ensuring that every person has the opportunity to achieve optimal health.
To keep as many people in our community as healthy as possible, we need to ensure that systems are in place to promote good health and prevent inequitable health outcomes. This means that access to medicines and care must be affordable for everyone.
As physicians, we hear the stories of our patients and see firsthand how prohibitively expensive medications and lack of access to affordable care repeatedly lead to disparate health outcomes. We cannot sit quietly and wait for the system to improve. Rather, we have a responsibility to speak out and advocate for our patients, and we must urge our members of Congress to pass legislation that will improve the health of our patients and our communities.
At this singular time, we have a narrow window of opportunity to effect lasting change, and our patients and communities cannot afford to wait any longer to access their essential medicines and care. To create a healthier nation, we must seize every opportunity to address existing inequities in health, and as a nation we must take decisive action now to make medicines and health care more affordable by ensuring current health provisions in the proposed fiscal reconciliation package are enacted into law.
Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. https://www.democrats.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/inflation_reduction_act_of_2022.pdf. Accessed July 27, 2022.
New Poll: Bipartisan voters’ overwhelming support for comprehensive drug pricing reform is unwavering. https://patientsforaffordabledrugsnow.org/2022/04/26/new-poll-overwhelming-bipartisan-voter-support-for-comprehensive-drug-pricing-reform-is-unwavering-press-release/. Published April 26, 2022. Accessed July 27, 2022.
Poll: Nearly one in four Americans who take prescription drugs say it’s difficult to buy their drugs, including higher shares among those with health conditions, low incomes and nearing retirement health insurance age. https://www.kff.org/health-costs/press-release/poll-nearly-1-in-4-americans-taking-prescription-drugs-say-its-difficult-to-afford-medicines-including- most-shares-with-low-incomes/. Published March 1, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2022.
What’s in the Manchin-Schumer agreement on taxes, climate and energy. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-27/what-s-in-the-manchin-schumer-tax-climate-and-energy-agreement. Published July 27, 2022. Accessed July 27, 2022.