Working to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

by: U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

(U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, official photo)

On December 19, 2019, Senate colleagues and I introduced S. 3129, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, to lower prescription drug prices and encourage the development of new therapies and cures. This bill contains provisions that already have broad, bipartisan support in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Focusing on achievable areas of agreement can make progress in truly making prescription drugs more affordable.

America is the leader in biopharmaceutical innovation, bringing life-saving therapies to patients and discovering cures. However, these drugs are only effective if patients can afford them. Alarmingly, a recent study suggested that in 2017, 37 percent of Idaho residents stopped taking medication as prescribed due to cost. President Trump made a commitment to prioritize lowering drug costs, and this legislation will accomplish that.

Fellow Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) joined me in introducing S. 3129 to lower prescription drug prices, bring greater transparency to the prescription drug industry and encourage American ingenuity in the development of new treatments and cures. The Lower Costs, More Cures Act builds on the market-based principles of Medicare Part D to leverage competition, flexibility and transparency to bring affordable drugs to patients.

Through this legislation, for the first time, Part D patients would have a maximum out-of-pocket cap to protect them from high costs. Providers would have access to information to recommend lower-cost alternatives, and Medicare Part B would appropriately pay providers for prescribing the best drug for their patient. The legislation includes numerous reforms intended to do the following:

  • Modernize payments for drugs delivered in the doctor’s office under Medicare Part B;
  • Incentivize lower-cost alternatives, or biosimilars;
  • Establish an annual out-of-pocket cap of $3,100 for Medicare Part D enrollees and allow certain patients to pay in monthly installments;
  • Place an out-of-pocket cap of $50 on insulin and insulin medical supplies;
  • Decrease beneficiary cost sharing from 25 percent to 15 percent of costs before the out-of-pocket cap is reached;
  • Allow prescription drug plan sponsors to offer, at minimum, up to four Part D plans per region, spurring competition and innovation;
  • Prevent the upcoming spike in costs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries that reach their annual maximum payment amount;
  • Provide greater flexibility for individuals to use Health Savings Accounts to purchase over-the-counter drugs;
  • Make permanent the 7.5 percent adjusted gross income for the purposes of the medical expense deduction in the tax filing season;
  • Create a trade negotiator solely dedicated to putting American patients first in government trade negotiations related to medicines in order to prevent foreign free-loading off America’s investment; and
  • Require drug manufacturers to provide pricing information on all direct-to-consumer advertising.

A two-page summary of the legislation is accessible on my official website, at:

https://www.crapo.senate.gov/

Introduction of this legislation is part of my commitment to ensure greater access to affordable medications for patients, while adhering to market-driven principles. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I also voted in favor of four bills to prevent patent gaming by pharmaceutical companies, which would enable more affordable generic drugs to come to market sooner.

Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon) introduced legislation similar to S. 3129 in the House of Representatives. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) co-sponsored the House bill that received bipartisan support when considered by the House. The Administration has called it “a far better approach to lowering drug prices and discovering life-saving cures” than the House-passed legislation. Congress should act now to pass the Lower Costs, More Cures Act into law.

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