The high cost of prescription drugs is at the top of the list of concerns Americans have about their health care. It's easy to understand why. The average cost for a year's supply of medication for someone with a chronic illness has more than doubled since 2006 to over $11,000. That's about three-fourths of the average Social Security retirement benefit.
Too many people struggle to pay for drugs and end up waiting to fill a prescription, taking less medication to make it last longer or deciding to not fill the prescription at all. Unless costs come down, people will not be able to afford the drugs they need, leading to poorer health and higher health care costs.
Both Republicans and Democrats have called for measures to lower drug costs. These proposals include allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and making it legal to buy prescription drugs in Canada and Europe. In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump declared that we need to "work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately." Let's hold the president to his promise.
The concern Americans have over drug prices is part of the larger issue of health care. That was demonstrated in the recent debate over the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA). As the potential impact of the bill emerged, Americans urged their lawmakers to oppose it.
The bill was flawed from the beginning. It would have added an age tax on older Americans, increased their insurance rates dramatically and reduced health insurance subsidies. It would have left 24 million people who now have health insurance without coverage. It also would have provided tax breaks worth $200 billion to insurance and drug companies.
The decision to shelve the AHCA was a victory for the American people — won, in large part, by tens of thousands of engaged AARP members like you who wrote letters, sent emails and called their members of Congress.
The demise of the AHCA, however, doesn't mean Americans don't want change or that they are satisfied with their health care. That is clearly demonstrated by the outrage over drug prices that are just too high in many cases. We have a long history of advocating for lower prescription-drug prices, and we will work with the administration and Congress to continue that fight.
If you are concerned about the high cost of drugs, let your member of Congress know by calling 844-453-9952 toll-free.
Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.
For Help With High Drug Prices
Medicare enrollees with limited income may be eligible for help with Medicare Part D. Go to ssa.gov/prescriptionhelp or call 800-772-1213. To talk with trained counselors who can help navigate Medicare and Medicaid, call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. If you can't afford your medications and need financial help, go to needymeds.org and click the Patient Savings tab. Read the latest report on drug prices from AARP Public Policy Institute's Rx Watchdog at aarp.org/rxpricewatch.