Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: Editorial: Build back better prescription drug costs

FREDERICKSBURG FREE LANCE-STAR

Build Back Better appears likely to wind up being short a couple of bedrooms, an extra bath and a man cave, but there are parts of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan that really need saving.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 7th District, was in Culpeper last week with Biden to make a pitch for a piece of the plan that has been a long time coming: the part making prescription drugs more affordable.

Granted, politics is politics. Spanberger is seeking to make herself as visible as possible heading into this year’s midterm elections. She’s in a redrawn 7th, one that does not include her suburban Richmond home but does now extend as far north as blue Prince William County. Whatever the motivation, though, this cause is a just one.

In the talk at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center, she said she would support either stand-alone legislation or trying once again to beat down the seemingly impregnable door of legislative resistance to Biden’s big plan.

This issue has been with us for a while, as anyone who is not exceptionally healthy knows. Three years ago, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would have let Medicare negotiate drug prices, passed in the House but died in the Senate.

Spanberger has been critical of the way Build Back Better has been presented in Washington and to the country in general. She has rightly worried that the plan’s $2 trillion (that’s 2 million million, or about $6,000 per American) figure has been a wet blanket, while parts of the plan–such as prescription drug relief–should be a relatively easy sell.

Prescription drug expenditures in the U.S. continue to outpace inflation. In 2020, the first pandemic year, brand-name drugs rose 2.9 percent while the general inflation rate was 1.3 percent, less than half. Since 1960, according to healthsystemtracker.org, per capita spending on retail prescription drugs has risen from $90 to $1,025, adjusted for inflation. One in four people taking prescription drugs said in a Kaiser Family Foundation study that they had a hard time affording their medication.

Relief from the high cost of prescription drugs should not be a red or blue matter. About two-thirds of U.S. adults take them, according to the Health Policy Institute.

We applaud Spanberger for owning this issue and hope that the House and Senate will agree that this is one wing of the Build Back Better dream house on which ground needs to be broken soon.

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