Bonamici-Sponsored Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Prices Advances to House Floor
WASHINGTON, DC [10/17/19] – Today the Education and Labor Committee approved legislation co-sponsored by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) to lower prescription drug costs.
H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, takes important steps to reduce expenses related to prescription drugs. It would have Medicare negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, create an international pricing index to prevent companies from charging much more for the same drug in the U.S. than abroad, and implement a $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries. These benefits would be passed on to private employers and individuals.
Video of Bonamici’s remarks at the committee vote in support of H.R. 3 can be found here.
“Action to address skyrocketing prescription drug costs is long overdue and I’m proud to be part of a committee that is tackling the issue in a meaningful way,” Bonamici said at the markup. “I frequently hear from constituents about the escalating burden of paying for their medications. During our last district work period, I held six town hall meetings in five different counties across Northwest Oregon—and the issue of unaffordable drug prices came up at every single one of them.”
Bonamici shared the story of an individual she met at her fall town hall series when she spoke in support of H.R. 3 at the committee markup, as well as a story about her personal experience with caring for her mother.
“In Cornelius, Oregon a gentleman named Jon held up a small tube of medication and said that he thought it was a mistake when he was asked to pay $138 out of pocket for just two of those 30-gram tubes,” Bonamici shared. “Despite having robust insurance coverage, the list price for that drug was more than $250, and he was responsible for a 20 percent copay. Jon also wrote to me with additional details: ‘Why is this stuff is so insanely expensive?” he wondered. “Is it costly to make? Is there no generic version? Is it cutting edge, brand new, needing to make back research costs?’
“Jon did some research and he found out that this ointment was patented in 1968 and, until 2014, it cost about $10 a tube. That’s still the price in England, but in the U.S. only one company sells that drug—and five years ago that company raised its price over 4000%.
“Jon was fortunate that his situation was not life-or-death and that he was not being forced to choose between life-saving medication and putting food on the table. Too many Americans are not so lucky. Jon concluded his letter by writing, ‘At what point does it get too outrageous? At what point is it too insane? At what point is it so bad that we actually decide to fix it? People are desperate and people are dying.’
“I couldn’t agree more with what Jon said. That is why I am a cosponsor of the underlying legislation and support the amendment in the nature of a substitute, which will empower the largest purchaser of prescription drugs -- the federal government -- to negotiate prices just like private payors, who will also benefit from those negotiations.
“And here’s my personal story; Representative McBath shared hers. My mother is 91 years old. She’s a two-time cancer survivor and she has Alzheimer’s and was recently diagnosed with irregular heartbeat. She was prescribed a medication and I got a call from the pharmacy when they were filling the prescription. They said, ‘we just want you to know that the out-of-pocket cost for this prescription is more than $300 after payment by Medicare.’ Like Representative McBath, we were able to cover that cost, but what about the families who don’t have an extra $300 a month to cover the cost of lifesaving medication?
“H.R. 3 will also lower out-of-pocket expenses, particularly for seniors, and will reinvest some of the hundreds of billions in dollars in savings back into developing new therapies and improving health care for all Americans. I urge my colleagues to join me in being part of the solution.”