Rep. Welch: “It Would Be Political Malpractice for Congress to Do Nothing”
Washington, D.C. — Today, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) joined Hart Research’s Geoff Garin, Brookings Institution’s Dr. Richard Frank, Patients for Affordable Drugs’ David Mitchell and Protect Our Care to discuss the latest developments in Washington as Congress works to pass budget reconciliation legislation. During the call, speakers sounded the alarm against Congress passing a completely watered-down version of Medicare negotiations in the Build Back Better Act.
As President Biden and patient advocates are fighting tirelessly to include Medicare negotiations and other critical health care investments in the Build Back Better Act, Big Pharma has tightened its grip on its friends in Congress — potentially threatening the most popular and transformative measure in the entire bill. Recent reporting indicates that as Congress comes closer to a deal, a small handful of members are trying to gut Medicare negotiations to the point of being nearly meaningless.
“When we fight for price negotiation, we are standing up for patients, consumers, and employers who get hammered by the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs,” said U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT-AL). “Average prescription drug prices in the US are far higher than anywhere else in the world, and we must take action to protect our citizens from the constant price gouging. This is a source of enormous anxiety for folks who need these drugs for themselves or the ones they love. It’s outrageous and it’s unjustifiable and it would be political malpractice for Congress to do nothing. By saving money — simply by stopping this ongoing pharma rip off — we can help Americans afford lifesaving drugs, whether they voted for Trump or voted for Biden.”
“As we head into the final days of debate, we must understand that there is overwhelming consensus in this country that the amount pharmaceutical companies charge for prescription drugs is unreasonable,” said Geoff Garin, President of Hart Research. “Support for Medicare negotiations is nearly universal, and establishing a system to lower drug prices is a top priority for voters. Even in the face of the strongest opposition from pharmaceutical companies, voters continue to support lowering prescription drug prices through Medicare negotiations.”
“Medicare negotiations are targeting areas where the market is failing. Half of the Medicare Parts B and D prescription drugs have been on the market for long periods and have received massive profits while having little effect on new science or new cures,” said Dr. Richard Frank, Director of the USC-Brookings Center Schaeffer Initiative on Health Policy. “However, the evidence pharmaceutical companies are using to oppose Medicare negotiations does not highlight that. It is important to keep that in mind when accessing the claims against giving Medicare the power to lower prescription drug prices.”
“As a patient with an incurable blood cancer, my doctors have me on a four drug combination with a list price of $900,000 per year,” said David Mitchell, founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs. “We are closer than we have been in almost two decades to achieving reforms. The key now is to hold the line on the last minute push by Pharma and its handmaidens in Congress to find ways to gut the drug pricing provisions of Build Back Better and render the bill ineffective. Let’s be clear: Medicare must be able to negotiate over any and all high cost drugs that have little or no competition in both Parts B and D. Period.”
“As Congress closes in on a deal to transform health care for millions of Americans, Big Pharma’s friends in Washington are working overtime to eviscerate Medicare negotiations and protect drug company profits. The so-called alternatives being floated — prohibiting negotiations for drugs that are still on patent and have no competition, and removing penalties for drug companies that refuse to negotiate at all — will not meaningfully lower drug prices for patients, period,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “Watering down Medicare negotiations means lawmakers are turning their backs on the Americans who are being forced to choose between affording essential medications and putting food on the table or paying rent. Let’s be clear: the Build Back Better health care provisions, and specifically giving Medicare the power to negotiate, are the most important measures in the entire bill. Democrats ran and won on health care in 2020, and voters are demanding they deliver on their promises and lower drug prices now.”