Let’s be clear: There is no reason for Americans to pay more for prescription drugs than anyone else in the world. But we often do. As the prices continue to soar, more and more families struggle to pay for the medicines they need every day. Some even choose between buying food and buying medicine.
This hits older Americans especially hard. Skyrocketing prices are pushing lifesaving prescription drugs out of reach for many who need them, including people suffering with cancer, asthma and diabetes. Those who rely on Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage — who take an average of 4.5 prescriptions — face real hardships.
Higher prescription drug prices also increase costs for taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. This could mean higher taxes and cuts to other public programs that affect all Americans. It’s no surprise that access to affordable prescription drugs is a key issue for older Americans.
One of the main reasons prescription drug prices are so high is that pharmaceutical companies are allowed to set prices with no transparency. That’s how they like it. Meanwhile, those companies spend billions on advertising and lobbying to protect their monopolies and control the price of drugs to keep charging all of us more.
This has to stop. AARP has identified numerous reforms that Congress and the administration can make that would help lower drug prices.
There has been progress. Important Medicare Part D reforms to lower out-of-pocket costs for many older Americans, which AARP had urged lawmakers to adopt, were included as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
Now, with midterm elections coming up, the pharmaceutical industry is engaged in an all-out effort to reverse the Part D reforms. We’re calling on Congress to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and protect seniors and all taxpayers from higher costs and higher prices. And I urge you to join us. Tell your representatives and candidates running in the midterm elections that they must resist any attempt to undo recent reforms. And urge them to enact new measures that would help lower drug costs for all Americans. Then vote for those who promise to help — and hold them accountable.
As consumers and as a country, we can’t afford to continue to pay more than anyone else for the same prescription drugs. It’s time for drug companies to stop taking advantage of Americans, especially older Americans. No one should be forced to jeopardize their health because they can’t afford the proper medicine. It’s just not right.
Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.