Time to stop Rx sticker shock

As U.S. senators representing the Big Sky state and Hawkeye country, we know older Montanans and Iowans keep a watchful eye on spending. Like millions of Americans across the country, they are mindful that they need to stretch their savings in order to pay the bills and uphold their quality of life in retirement.

Whenever we hear from folks in Iowa or Montana, we hear widespread concern about the rising costs of prescription drugs. It’s particularly upsetting to find out some patients ration or skip doses of daily medication because they can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs.

This issue has struck a chord with people all over our great nation. It’s time to enact reforms to restore the gravitational forces of the free marketplace. Year after year, escalating prices for prescription medicine are reaching sky high, hitting seniors and taxpayers squarely in their pocketbooks. Consumers are left scratching their heads when lifesaving medicines, such as insulin, have been on the market for decades yet prices continue to soar.

We’ve hit the trail this past month, across Iowa and Montana, to meet with constituents and lay the groundwork and build momentum to reduce drug prices.

The Trump administration issued a road map last summer to bring down drug prices. It painted a giant bulls-eye on exorbitant prescription drug costs with its blueprint of reforms. It has served as a key catalyst in Congress to turn the conversation into a serious movement. With President Trump anchoring the effort, we have the wind at our sails and our oars in the water to stop the pricing shenanigans that put taxpayers and consumers on the hook.

We’ve rolled up our sleeves on the Senate Finance Committee to identify what’s not working to help fix what’s broken. Let’s be clear: America’s free market system has nurtured the blockbuster drugs and medical innovations that have cured previously “incurable” diseases and improved the quality of life for seniors managing chronic health conditions. We understand Americans do not want to sacrifice quality and innovation. That’s why we are working to make changes that will help improve competition and get more bang for the buck.

After months of hard work in Washington, we’ve learned the complex drug pricing system and misguided payment incentives are allowing Big Pharma and pharmacy benefit managers to take advantage of secrecy baked into the pricing supply chain. Additional anti-competitive business arrangements present a take it or leave it choice for consumers, insurers and independent pharmacies.

It flies in the face of our consumer-driven economy. Americans drive a hard bargain when they purchase goods and services, from homes, to cars and even cereal. Since the earliest days of the republic, the competitive free marketplace helps drive down costs and drive up innovation and better values for consumers. That’s the American way.

One glaring exception is prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical drug supply chain needs a strong dose of transparency to restore accountability. Sunshine is always the best prescription to weed out wrongdoing, waste, fraud and abuse. That’s why we are working to boost market-driven reforms to help reduce drug prices.

According to the U.S. Census 2018 population estimates, Iowa (17.1%) and Montana (18.7%) rank high for the percentage of citizens age 65 and older. It’s important to these older Americans and their loved ones that Medicare and Medicaid work as effectively and efficiently as possible. In July, we advanced bipartisan reforms to help drive down prescription drug costs for seniors and taxpayers. Every year these public health programs expend tens of millions of tax dollars just on prescription medicine.

The bipartisan package of reforms we steered through the Senate Finance Committee would save taxpayers more than $100 billion and reform anti-competitive practices that have allowed drug pricing to get out of whack for consumers and shouldered to a large extent on the backs of taxpayers. Another key improvement in our bill would limit out-of-pocket costs for Medicare and Medicaid patients. Our bipartisan bill, which would save $20 billion in out of pocket costs, increases financial security for our seniors so they can afford the prescription drugs they need.

Our bipartisan updates would reform payment incentives and ensure Big Pharma, hospitals and pharmacy benefit managers have more skin in the game. For too long, they have been allowed to game the system. We are gearing up to send our bipartisan Drug Pricing Reduction Act to the president’s desk this fall. It’s time to put an end to sticker shock and bring meaningful price transparency to the prescription drug market. It’s time to deliver real savings to Americans at the pharmacy counter.