Richmond Times-Dispatch: Spanberger: A year later, the Inflation Reduction Act is helping Virginians save money

RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, ABIGAIL SPANBERGER

For years, the No. 1 issue I’ve heard about from Virginia seniors is high prescription drug costs.

Since I first arrived in Congress, I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from seniors across our commonwealth — and their worried loved ones — who are rationing medicine, skipping doses, going into debt to afford their medication, or just going without their prescription drugs. That’s why one of my top priorities has been lowering the price of prescription drugs.

I was proud to deliver on this commitment by voting to pass the Inflation Reduction Act.

This law — passed through Congress and signed into law one year ago in August 2022 — is easing some of the financial burdens on families and seniors, lowering health care costs, and saving Virginians money at the pharmacy counter. Since its provisions started taking effect, I’m already hearing from Virginia families and seniors who have found new peace of mind — because they can now afford to fill their prescriptions.

As of July 1, the Inflation Reduction Act capped the cost of insulin at $35 per month under both Medicare Part D and Part B. I’ve heard from Lawrence, a senior living in Caroline County, who now pays nearly three times less for insulin.

“I was paying over $100 per bottle for insulin before this year. Now, I can get nearly 3 bottles for the same price. Thank you so much, Rep. Spanberger.” That’s progress.

This law is also driving free-market solutions to the insulin affordability crisis. Because of this reform, we’ve seen drugmakers cap the monthly out-of-pocket cost of their insulin at $35 to get in line with this popular provision. This momentum is cause for celebration, regardless of your political affiliation — but we should build upon this progress and work to make sure Virginians of all ages have guaranteed access to affordable insulin.

The Inflation Reduction Act also ends pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly control over the prices of some of the most expensive and most-used drugs under Medicare. This law creates penalties for transnational pharmaceutical companies that raise their prices out of step with inflation and protects against reckless price gouging. These penalties take the form of a rebate — the difference between what the price increase would have been if the manufacturer stuck to the rate of inflation and what the actual price hike was — paid back to Medicare.

Prescription drugs on a money banknotes. Concept of healthcare costs
In 2020, drug prices increased faster than the rate of inflation for half of all drugs covered by Medicare. And these medications are some of those most relied upon by seniors.

According to AARP, the lifetime list prices for 24 of the 25 top Medicare brand-name drugs have far outpaced the annual rate of inflation — and more than tripled in price. The price of Enbrel — a medication used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis — has skyrocketed more than 700% since coming to market in 1998.

Through the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress also gave Medicare the power to negotiate with drug manufacturers to lower the cost of some of the most expensive medications on the market. Medicare has historically been prohibited by law from negotiating any prescription drug costs — even though the Department of Veterans Affairs and individual private insurance companies have long been able to do so.

The law also makes recommended vaccines — like the shingles vaccine — available to seniors at no cost, prevents health care premium hikes for Virginia families, and will cap out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 for Medicare beneficiaries.

I was proud to have a hand in enacting this law that is delivering for Virginians — and Virginians like John from Spotsylvania County are witnessing the benefits firsthand: “I have a friend that asked me to seek financial assistance for medication expenses. Before I could put pen to paper, your assistance brought relief to her. Elders suffer more than any others. Keep up the great work. Your help is needed beyond comprehension. God bless.”

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