Protect Our Care Releases New Report As Part of Lower Rx Summer

Today, Protect Our Care is continuing Week 6 of Lower Rx Summer with a report underscoring how high drug costs hurt American Indians and Alaska Natives. Earlier this week, Protect Our Care published research on the toll that high drug prices take on Black Americans and Hispanic and Latino people. Racial disparities in medication access only demonstrates the urgency for reform to bring down drug prices.

In June, Protect Our Care announced Lower Rx Summer as part of The Campaign to Reduce Drug Prices. Lower Rx Summer consists of themed weeks of action to illustrate the urgent need for legislation to lower drug prices principally by giving Medicare the power to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices for all Americans.

Remaining Theme Weeks for Lower Rx Summer

Week 6 (July 12): How High Drug Prices Hurt People of Color

Week 7 (July 19): How High Drug Prices Hurt Small Businesses

Week 8 (July 26): How High Drug Prices Hurt Children

Week 9 (August 2): Expanding Medicare Benefits—Hearing, Vision, And Dental

Racial inequity penetrates every corner of the American health care system, and high prescription drug prices are no exception. Nearly 30 percent of individuals taking prescription medications struggle to afford the cost, with the burden most severely impacting those who make less than $40,000 a year and have medication costs over $100. These factors disproportionately impact American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are more likely to require medications for chronic health conditions, while simultaneously earning household median incomes nearly $30,000 less than white counterparts, resulting in reduced ability to pay at the pharmacy counter. In addition, many American Indians and Alaska Natives live in one of the 13 states yet to implement Medicaid expansion, with people of color comprising 60 percent of individuals living in the coverage gap. 

“Structural racism has led to American Indians and Alaska Natives being disproportionately burdened by both high drug prices and wealth inequality in the United States,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “It is unacceptable that millions of people can’t afford the drugs they need to survive. Bringing down the cost of drugs is an essential step in addressing racial inequities in health care. It’s time to put an end to Big Pharma’s greed and give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices.”

In 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), historic legislation that would lower drug prices for all Americans. H.R. 3 would save patients over $150 billion and reduce the price of the costliest drugs by as much as 55 percent

Not only does giving Medicare the power to negotiate help patients at the pharmacy counter, but it would save the federal government $500 billion, which could be reinvested to strengthen health care. These savings could help lower premiums, expand coverage, and strengthen Medicare benefits to include hearing, vision, and dental. As the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring access to affordable health care, and specifically prescription drugs, has never been more critical. 

KEY POINTS

  • American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately harmed by income and health inequity. American Indians and Alaska Natives are more likely to have a lower median income compared with their white counterparts. This disparity has profound impacts on health outcomes for American Indians and Alaska Natives that can result in reduced ability to access lifesaving drugs and a decrease in life expectancy.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives are regularly forced to navigate chronic health conditions with reduced access to needed drugs. Compounding social, economic, and political forces make American Indians and Alaska Natives more likely to suffer from ongoing health issues and be faced with outrageous medication prices. Inequitable drug access due to cost creates additional medical problems that disproportionately impact American Indians and Alaska Natives. 
  • Drug pricing reform is crucial to addressing racial health disparities. American Indians and Alaska Natives are significantly more likely to be uninsured than their white counterparts, pushing up the cost of prescription drugs in a country that is already paying nearly three times what individuals in other countries are spending on the same drugs. Wealth and health disparities perpetuated by systemic racism increase the strain of drug costs for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Read the new report on how high drug costs hurt American Indians and Alaska Natives here.