U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Let Americans unwrap savings on prescription medicine

‘Let’s end the partisan bickering.’

  • By Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Chuck Grassley
  • Thursday, December 26, 2019 7:00am
  • Opinion

These days it’s seems there’s scant agreement about much of anything in Washington. However, outside of the nation’s capital, Americans share full-throated agreement on an issue that really matters: the sky rocketing prices they pay for prescription medicine.

From all across the nation, inexplicable price spikes for prescription drugs are gouging consumers, putting patient health at risk and soaking the taxpayer. Drug prices are hitting the budgets of everyday Americans and squeezing our government programs, taking away from health programs that serve older people and individuals with disabilities.

We regularly hear from families who worry about paying for life-saving insulin and from seniors who struggle to pay for their prescription medicine to manage chronic illnesses and debilitating conditions.

Although it’s hard to break the partisan sound barrier, we’ve gotten the message and are working to deliver drug pricing reform that will make prescription medicine more affordable for tens of millions of Americans.

After months of bipartisan deliberation and discovery in the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate is pushing to get the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act across the legislative finish line.

This bill puts patient health and pocketbooks first. For the first time ever, it would place a $3,100 annual cap for out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors and spread out payments for high-cost drug expenses. It lowers the amount that Medicare beneficiaries have to pay for drugs before they hit this out-of-pocket cap. During congressional hearings of the Senate Finance Committee, testimony from pharmacy executives, drug chain middlemen, patients and other stakeholders affirmed a stark reality. Rising drug prices in America require reforms.

The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act continues to build bipartisan support and has the best chance to deliver real relief. President Donald Trump supports the bill. He’s ready to sign it into law and deliver on his promise to lower drug costs for Americans.

The murky drug supply chain needs stronger transparency tools that will bring accountability and competition to the system. This bill would require Part D plans and middlemen to work with pharmacies to reduce costs for consumers. It would apply rebates and fees to improve cost accountability. For example, the bill would set an inflation penalty that requires pharmaceutical companies to pay rebates if they increase prices faster than the rate of inflation. This common sense solution would help curb runaway cost-inflation at taxpayer expense.

The Senate bill would not derail innovation or undermine America’s system of free enterprise, which has helped launch lifesaving cures and treatment from one generation to the next. We’re trying to fix what’s broken, not to break what’s working. Americans don’t want or deserve government-run controls that would trim access to life-saving cures and treatments.

Between our strong fishing heritage in the Last Frontier and proud agrarian heritage in the Hawkeye State, we know when it’s time to fish or cut bait. We’re calling on members of Congress to climb aboard our bipartisan boat to help reel in the win.

Let’s end the partisan bickering and the big-money influence that gets in the way of the people’s business. This bill would lower drug costs, hold Big Pharma accountable and protect medical innovation. Getting the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act to the president’s desk would make a great New Year’s resolution for Congress.

• U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, co-authored this piece. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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