For the first time ever, Medicare would be able to negotiate the cost of some prescription medicines with pharmaceutical companies, and out-of-pocket drug expenses for beneficiaries would be capped, under a bill leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled on Thursday.
Under HR 3, called the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would identify 250 brand-name drugs each year that cost Medicare the most money and do not have generic competitors. The government would then negotiate the price of at least 25 of those medications each year directly with the companies. In addition, HHS would be required to negotiate the price of insulin, a drug whose costs per patient nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, according to House leaders.
"The burden of out-of-control drugs is one issue that touches everyone in America,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday at a news conference announcing the bill.
"The status quo is simply unacceptable,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of three panels whose members will have jurisdiction over this measure.
"The problem now,” Pallone said, “is that drug companies basically charge whatever they want.” He said that the price of one insulin drug, Lantus, was almost four times as much in the United States as in Canada and the United Kingdom. Lucentis, a drug used to treat macular degeneration, costs seven times as much in the U.S. as in France.
Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is one of the key priorities of AARP's Stop Rx Greed campaign. “Medicare should be able to use its bargaining power to get a better deal for the more than 55 million seniors who rely on Medicare, especially for the highest-priced drugs and those drugs with little or no market competition,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer.