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Government Health Care News Viewpoints

Viewpoint: Empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices will save lives and money

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Sen. Jack Walsh

By Sen. Jack Walsh
Guest Columnist

Last month, President Joe Biden released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022, and while the document contained a plethora of information, one paragraph in particular has the potential to change millions of lives and save billions of dollars in the process. The paragraph in question outlines President Biden’s support for reforms that would allow Medicare to negotiate the prices for prescription drugs.

The price of drugs in this country has been moving to the forefront of public consciousness as prices continue to skyrocket at a rate that far exceeds the rise in inflation. In 2020 alone, a year filled with economic uncertainty and increased health risks, major pharmaceutical companies engaged in over1,000 price hikes, leaving millions of working class Americans behind.

Last year, just shy of 40 percent of people reported having difficulty paying for prescription medications, which caused over 20 percent of respondents to struggle to afford other basic necessities. It’s estimated that allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prices could save over 90,000 lives per year. And allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices wouldn’t just help those on Medicare, Americans not on Medicare would also have access to negotiated prices through private insurance plans.

The pharmaceutical industry has long discredited any attempts at reform by leaning on the narrative that any such legislation would hamstring innovation and bring to a halt new drug development. However, the industry grossly over accentuates the price tag of the research and development required to bring new drugs to market. Utilizing industry-funded research to substantiate their position, pharmaceutical companies inaccurately claim that it takes over 2.5 billion dollars to develop a novel drug and bring it to market. In reality, the real cost is closer to a third of their estimates. Not only that, but major drug companies actually put more money towards marketing their products and lobbying lawmakers than they do on researching and developing new medicines.

After putting this argument to rest, it’s hard to find a reason not to empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Americans. This sort of reform would have an incredibly positive effect for the country at large, and here at home, it would uplift many of Delaware’s working class households.

According to a new survey released this month by West Health, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to lowering the cost of health care, nearly 90 percent of voters in Delaware support requiring drug companies to negotiate with Medicare for lower prescription drug prices. Considering that 25 percentof families in the state were unable to afford the medicine their doctors prescribed them, and that over the last five years more than 10 percent of families have tragically experienced the death of a friend or family member due to the high price of medical treatment, this sentiment makes a lot of sense.

Thankfully, we are fortunate to have lawmakers like Senator Chris Coons and Senator Tom Carper who have committed to making healthcare more affordable, which makes me hopeful that they will put Delaware’s working class families first, and work with President Biden’s administration to pass legislation in the Senate this year to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prices.

John “Jack” Walsh, Senator 9th District

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