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Spanberger, U.S. House Pass Landmark Prescription Drug Legislation, Vote to Give Medicare the Power to Negotiate Drug Prices

The Congresswoman is a Cosponsor of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, Which Would Lower Drug Costs, Save Taxpayers Billions of Dollars, and Expand Medicare Benefits

Washington, December 12, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today passed major legislation to lower drug costs for Central Virginia families and strengthen Medicare benefits for Central Virginia seniors.

Over the past decade, rising drug costs have created tremendous financial certainty for seniors and families in Central Virginia and across the country. Between 2012 and 2017, the average annual cost of prescription drug treatments in Virginia increased by nearly 60 percent, while the annual income for Virginians only increased by 8.5 percent.

The Spanberger-cosponsored Lower Drug Costs Now Act would give Medicare Part D the power to negotiate directly with drug companies, and the resulting lower prices would also be available to Americans with private insurance. Additionally, the bill would expand Medicare benefits to include dental, vision, and hearing coverage—and it would establish a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for individuals on Medicare. Currently, Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating for lower prices.

“At my prescription drug forum last month in Henrico County, I heard about the tough decisions Virginia seniors and families face every day as drug prices skyrocket. In conversation after conversation, it’s clear that Central Virginians are being gouged on their lifesaving prescription medications. And for too long, Congress’ hands have been tied by the pharmaceutical lobby—and lawmakers have refused to take action,” said Spanberger. “I’m proud to be a cosponsor of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, and today’s passage brings us one step closer to combating relentless price increases in our communities. I’ve long pushed to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prices, and this bill delivers that commonsense provision. Our bill also cracks down on drug companies’ abusive practices, and it would help reverse decades of unfair price hikes on medications to treat widespread conditions like diabetes, breast cancer, and arthritis. American families shouldn’t be paying tens of thousands of dollars more for identical medications compared to other industrialized countries, and I urge the U.S. Senate to take up this legislation now.”

In Virginia’s Seventh District, more than 96,000 people are enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, and nearly 614,000 individuals are enrolled in private health insurance. The Lower Drug Costs Now Act would deliver tangible cost-savings for these Central Virginia seniors, families, and those with chronic conditions. For example, the legislation could decrease arthritis medication prices in Virginia from $40,000 to $10,000 per year.

Additionally, Virginians with diabetes would see dramatic price decreases. If enacted, the Lower Drug Costs Now would lower the total cost of the insulin medication NovoLOG Flexpen by an estimated 76 percent—from $19,800 to $4,800 per year. Click here to read more about the Virginia-specific benefits of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

The Spanberger-supported bill is also expected to save American taxpayers approximately $500 billion over the next 10 years. These savings would be reinvested into efforts to combat the substance abuse and addiction crisis and into cutting-edge research to discover new cures and treatments.

The legislation also includes an amendment Spanberger cosponsored to help rural and medically-underserved areas recruit new healthcare professionals. Specifically, the amendment would create a grant program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to cover the start-up costs for establishing Graduate Medical Education partnerships with hospitals that have existing programs.

Additional background information on the Lower Drug Costs Now Act can be found here.

BACKGROUND

Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has made lowering drug costs for Central Virginians a top priority. In October 2019, the U.S. House voted 403 to 0 to pass her bipartisan legislation to help tackle the prescription drug affordability crisis and hold pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) accountable.

Last month, Spanberger convened a two-day healthcare tour across Virginia’s Seventh District. To close the tour, Spanberger hosted a community forum in Henrico County alongside AARP Virginia to discuss high prescription drug prices in Central Virginia and to discuss the recent passage of her legislation to expand transparency within the murky world of PBMs.

Spanberger’s support for the Lower Drug Costs Now Act builds on her work in the U.S. House to address the prescription drug affordability crisis, spur competition in the prescription drug industry, and increase transparency in drug pricing, including:

  • Stopping practices that block generic alternatives from entering the consumer market. In October 2019, Spanberger introduced the bipartisan Biologic Patent Transparency Act, which would take a first step in stopping the practice of “patent gaming” and would seek to level the playing field for biosimilar drugs.
  • Giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices. In January 2019, she helped introduce the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, which would authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical providers within Medicare Part D to help lower costs.
  • Hearing directly from Central Virginians about their prescription drug-related challenges. Last month during her two-day healthcare tour, Spanberger held a prescription drug forum in Henrico County to hear the stories and concerns of Central Virginians related to high prescription drug costs. And in August 2019, she held a prescription drug roundtable with local families, providers, and pharmacists to focus on the economic and healthcare issues caused by overpriced prescription drugs. During the discussion, she heard concerns from patients and pharmacists about the influence of PBMs on the prescription drug marketplace.
  • Addressing additional factors that impact the prices of prescription drugs. Earlier this year, Spanberger helped introduce and pass landmark campaign finance and ethics reform legislation that would strengthen transparency in the U.S. political system and limit the influence of special interests—including pharmaceutical companies. During a press conference prior to the passage of the legislation, she shared the story of Central Virginians concerned about rising prescription drug prices—and she stressed why increased transparency would restore faith in the democratic process and the ability of Members of Congress to effect change on these issues. Click here to watch the full press conference.

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