House approves legislation to lower cost of prescription drugs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today, by a vote of 230 – 192, approved a sweeping drug-pricing reform bill designed to help bring down the cost of prescription drugs for millions of Americans.
The legislation, known as the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), would, among other things, allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for the more than 46 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D. It would also set a cap on the total out-of-pocket costs that seniors and others on Medicare are required to pay each year for their prescription drugs.
“No one in this country should have to choose between putting food on their table and paying for the cost of their medication,” said DeGette, who was a cosponsor of the legislation. “This legislation will help bring down the cost of prescription drugs for millions of Americans. It will also save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, which could then be used to help speed up our search for new breakthrough cures and treatments for some of the most stubborn diseases.”
The legislation overturns a measure Congress approved in 2003 that currently bars the federal government from directly negotiating the price Medicare pays for prescription drugs. Instead, the bill would explicitly direct the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate down the price of dozens of drugs each year.
The lower, negotiated price would apply not only to Medicare, helping to save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, it would also be available to private insurers as well.
In addition to allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of drugs, the legislation sets a limit on how much seniors and others on Medicare have to pay out-of-pocket each year for their prescription drugs. Unlike most private insurance plans, there currently is no limit on how much Medicare beneficiaries can be required to pay each year for their medications. The bill sets a new $2,000 limit on the total out-of-pocket prescription drug costs Medicare beneficiaries are responsible for each year.
According to data compiled by the House Committee on Ways and Means, there are 87,199 people living in Colorado’s first congressional district who are enrolled in Medicare Part D.
In addition to lowering the cost of prescription drugs, the legislation would provide $10 billion over the next five years to help local communities respond to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
It also provides an additional $10 billion to the National Institutes of Health to accelerate their efforts to find new breakthrough treatments and cures and build upon the momentum that was started by the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, which has revolutionized the way our country develops new treatments for patients.
DeGette and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the two coauthors of the landmark 21st Century Cures, announced recently that they have begun working on the second iteration of their historic bill, which they are calling Cures 2.0, to continue building on its many successes.
The Lower Drug Costs Now Act now heads to the Senate for consideration.