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Jackson praises federal drug pricing reforms in Inflation Reduction Act

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Jackson praises federal drug pricing reforms in Inflation Reduction Act

Aug 05, 2022 | 11:10 am ET
By Evan Popp
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Jackson praises federal drug pricing reforms in Inflation Relief Act

Leaders in Maine are praising the prescription drug pricing reforms included in a deal struck recently by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a spending package Democrats hope to pass through the budget reconciliation process.

While the details of the measure haven’t yet been finalized, Democrats are seeking to include in the package a requirement that the federal government negotiate the prices of certain expensive drugs covered by Medicare in order to lower the costs of such medication. The bill would also mandate that companies pay rebates if prescription drug costs go up faster than inflation and cap out-of-pocket spending for those enrolled in Medicare Part D — which helps cover the cost of prescription drugs — at $2,000, among other reforms. 

The bill could impact well over a million Medicare recipients, although some progressives — such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — have called for the measure to go further. 

Following the announcement Thursday night that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona will support the bill once some tax provisions are changed, the Senate Democratic caucus is now expected to be fully united behind the measure, which is going through the reconciliation process to circumvent a filibuster by Republicans. Democrats hope to hold an initial vote on the measure Saturday. They’ll need the support of all their members, as Republicans in the Senate are expected to oppose the bill en masse. 

Several Maine leaders who have worked on prescription drug reform at the state level expressed optimism about the reconciliation bill. Maine Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), who has sponsored several bills to lower drug prices, said he is encouraged by the health care aspects of the Manchin-Schumer agreement.

“States can only do so much. The prescription drug provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act could go a long way to help working families and older Mainers afford life saving medication,” Jackson said in a statement provided by his spokesperson. 

Another state senator who has focused on drug pricing reform in Maine, Democrat Ned Claxton of Androscoggin County, said the part of the federal deal that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices has the potential to be particularly important. 

The first consideration is what drugs are included and how many of those are commonly prescribed, [but] if it’s relatively common drugs that have been expensive and are working for people then it could mean really huge, appreciable savings with better access to lower cost drugs for people,” Claxton said.  

Advocates have long argued that allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices would bring down the cost of crucial medications. 

“Anyone who’s done any campaigning knows that is one of the primary complaints at the doors when you go house to house to talk to people: the cost of medications,” Claxton said. 

Along with empowering Medicare to negotiate, Claxton said international price referencing is a reform that lawmakers should pursue, referring to the fact that those in nearby Canada pay much less on average for prescription drugs than people in the U.S. 

He added that, “Transparency is a major piece and if negotiations surface in some sort of readily accessible report about how much certain entities are paying for drugs versus certain other entities, I think that would help generate some political pressure to change that.” 

Advocates and Democratic officials also hope to include a bill to cap the out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 a month in the reconciliation deal. However, in a letter to leadership, over 75 members of Congress — including Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine — called for those without health insurance to be included in any such legislation.

“Failure to do so will deepen health disparities and increase long-term healthcare costs,” the letter reads.

Photo via Perrigo Rx, Creative Commons via Flickr