WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., delivered a speech on the Senate floor yesterday to call on Congress to pass legislation to lower prescription drug costs.
“The high price of drugs is not a new problem, but it is a problem that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of households have seen their income suffer due to economic lockdowns aimed at containing the virus. Americans simply do not need the added burden of expensive drugs, particularly right now,” Dr. Cassidy said.
Cassidy cosponsored the Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act. The bill caps out-of-pocket expenses for seniors on Medicare Part D with chronic conditions. It also allows expenses to be paid over time, rather than in one lump sum, and it improves cost transparency.
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Cassidy’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are as follows:
Covid-19 is a continuing threat to Americans’ physical and financial health. It is at this intersection that Congress can make a meaningful impact on American families by passing sensible legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, legislation such as the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, or what I like to call the Making Coronavirus Drugs Affordable Act.
There is an urgent need to lower the cost of prescription drugs. The high price of drugs is not a new problem, but it is a problem that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of households have seen their income suffer due to economic lockdowns aimed at containing the virus. While I am encouraged that job numbers continue to outpace expectations, millions are still out of work, which has ramifications to their pocket books and, potentially, their insurance coverage. Americans simply do not need the added burden of expensive drugs, particularly right now.
Congress has provided relief for American families and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Members are considering another round of support. We should include drug pricing fixes in that package to ensure that everyone can afford treatment that they need should they become ill during this difficult time. I believe the best path forward is the Making Coronavirus Drugs Affordable Act.
The difficulty in solving the issue of expensive drugs is striking a proper balance between affordability for American families and money available for innovation. Without innovation, researchers would never be able to test for Covid-19 drug therapies or produce a vaccine.
We’ve seen industry respond to the pandemic in helpful ways. Pharmaceutical companies have committed $1 billion to antimicrobial resistance. They have invested in rapid and large-scale vaccine and treatment options. It is only through this innovation that the world can beat this virus and end the pandemic.
But we must always remember this truth: If patients cannot afford medicine, it’s as if innovation never occurred. The Making Coronavirus Drugs Affordable Act, strikes an ideal balance between lowering costs for families and the ability of researchers to innovate.
Our bill caps the out of pocket expense in Medicare Part D, particularly for the most vulnerable seniors with chronic conditions. Research has shown that seniors are the most at-risk for severe complications and death due to COVID-19. When a treatment or cure is widely available, cost should never be a barrier for a senior to access to the drugs he or she will need to survive.
Our bill also gives patients the option of paying out of pocket expenses a little bit over the year, rather than one lump sum up front. This added flexibility eases the strain on tight budgets while allowing treatment to continue.
The health care system in general needs more cost transparency. Our bill takes a step forward to achieving this goal by providing more transparency between middle men and drug companies. This allows Congress and stakeholders to identify and eliminate unnecessary costs that drive up prices for patients. Again, our bill provides guaranteed guardrails for patients while aligning incentives for all players in the drug supply chain to serve those patients.
I know that there are competing ideas on how to lower drug costs. Democrats in the House, for example, have introduced legislation that will stifle innovation through price-setting and tax increases. The bipartisan CBO projects that HR 3 will result in 38 fewer cures developed over the next two decades. That hurts Americans.
To fix the problem of the high cost of drugs, it will take a bipartisan coalition to build consensus to pass Congress. We have that with our bill. It ends government handouts to pharma without price fixing. It saves $80 billion by cutting corporate welfare. Yet, it also maintains incentives for life-saving innovations from the private sector.
Some in this chamber may be tempted to stall this bill until after this year’s elections. To them I would say: Do not let politics keep us from delivering drug pricing relief for American families. Too much is on the line, especially during this pandemic, to do nothing while families try to pay their medical bills. Let’s work together to pass this bill, lower the cost of drugs, protect innovation, and save lives.
Thank you, Mr. President.