Pelosi just put patients over profits. Will Trump? | Editorial

Posted Oct 20, 2019

One of the main knocks on the impeachment inquiry, from the few remaining holdouts like Jeff Van Drew, is that it will prevent Congress from taking up crucial issues like soaring prescription drug prices.

But here’s the irony: Van Drew’s Democratic colleagues have had to keep reintroducing legislation to address this problem, because Trump still hasn’t fulfilled his promise on the issue.

It’s not the Democrats who can’t get anything done. It’s the president.

Trump vowed last year that drug prices would fall “very substantially,” and “it’s going to be beautiful.” Months later, he bragged they had already fallen, bigly.

But in reality, they are still surging in 2019. Which is why Speaker Nancy Pelosi just released an ambitious plan to curb this problem, along with Democrats like New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone.

Their bill would finally empower our government to negotiate prices for Medicare patients and others buying a drug. It would reduce costs for everyone, not just people in Medicare, by setting nationwide rates for drugs.

Because the core issue is that we don’t negotiate, like other countries do. Drug makers can charge whatever they want. Take the arthritis medication, Humira: In Switzerland, a prescription will cost you $822, on average, Vox reports. But in the U.S., it will run you $2,669. Absurd.

As many as one in four Americans struggle to pay for their prescription drugs. In New Jersey, the average cost rose by nearly 58 percent between 2012 and 2017, adding as much as $1,000 to the price of some drugs, AARP found.

Trump has called for Medicare to haggle over prices “like crazy,” but he hasn’t followed through. As a result, Americans are still getting ripped off. Some can’t afford life-saving medications.

Bob Fowler, a retiree with incurable cancer, was prescribed Revlimid, which costs him $12,500 a year out of pocket. And he’s one of the lucky ones, who can pay.

“At times, the needless, excessive cost of this drug almost feels more inhumane than the cancer itself,” he told a House Committee last month.

A majority of both Republican and Democratic voters want the government to negotiate for lower drug prices, the Kaiser Family Foundation found, even though Big Pharma – which gave about 60 percent of its donations to Republicans in the last congressional race – calls it overreach.

Under Pelosi and Pallone’s plan, if a company refuses to negotiate, it faces a harsh penalty: At least 65 percent of its annual gross sales go to the federal government. That’s a huge incentive to cooperate. She also wants to base what we pay for drugs on the lower prices in other countries, an idea with “America first” appeal.

Some Republicans, like Sen. Chuck Grassley, support elements of her plan, like capping out-of-pocket costs for Medicare patients and curbing price hikes on drugs that are higher than the rate of inflation.

But will the president? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already called this plan dead on arrival. He’s been sitting on a stack of good bills passed by the House that died in his chamber, because Trump said he wouldn’t sign them – on gun safety, election security, climate change, and yes, tamping down prescription drug costs.

All proof that Democrats can work on concrete stuff while doing impeachment. The rest is up to the “greatest dealmaker.” Can he put the American people first?

Or will he leave price-gouged patients in McConnell’s legislative graveyard?

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment