Lowering Costs of Prescription Drugs

Debbie Stabenow believes healthcare is a basic human right and everyone should be able to afford the medications he or she needs. Drug companies treat prescription drugs as a commodity to be priced at whatever the market will bear, even if patients can’t afford critical life-saving medicine. In fact, the price for the most popular brand-name drugs has risen 208% from 2008-2016. Meanwhile, the median salary of a pharmaceutical CEO was $14.5 million in 2015, according to AARP. Now, since getting a huge tax giveaway, Big Pharma has spent $50 billion buying back its own stocks to help CEOs and big investors instead of lowering the costs of prescription drug prices.

Pharmaceutical and health product lobbying reached $279 million last year, more than any other industry. These lobbyists have been able to block Medicare from negotiating the lowest price for seniors and to stop families from buying safe, affordable medicine just across the bridge in Canada. They are even powerful enough to block your pharmacist from telling customers they could be paying less for their prescriptions. Senator Stabenow is not afraid to take on the drug lobbyists and special interests and has a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs for Michigan families.

Knowing the Lowest Price at the Pharmacy

Many customers have no idea that they could pay less for their prescription if they pay out of pocket rather than using their insurance at the pharmacy counter. That’s because many pharmacists are prohibited from telling their customers that a prescription to treat diabetes or high blood pressure may cost only $8 out of pocket instead of $20 through insurance coverage. One 2018 report found that customers overpaid for prescription drugs at the pharmacy counter 23% of the time. And many pharmacists are frustrated that they can’t help their customers save money.

Senator Stabenow’s bipartisan Know the Lowest Price Act (S.2553) cracks down on this practice by prohibiting an insurer or pharmacy benefit manager from restricting a pharmacy’s ability to provide drug price information when there is a difference between the cost of the drug under the plan and the cost of the drug when purchased without insurance.

Negotiating Better Prices through Medicare

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which created the Medicare Part D program, included a provision banning the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies. This effectively prevents Medicare from harnessing the bargaining power of nearly 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Senator Stabenow’s Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act (S.1688) would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts of their drugs. The bill eliminates the “non-interference” clause that bans Medicare from negotiating the best possible prices for seniors.

Importing Safe, Affordable Medicine

For years, Michigan families have had to pay high costs for prescription drugs when the same safe drugs are available at a lower price just over the bridge in Canada. Americans pay – by far – the highest prices in the world  for prescription drugs and spend about 40 percent more on prescriptions per person than Canadians do. Under current law, any prescription drug importation for personal use into the United States from Canada or other foreign countries is technically prohibited. Senator Stabenow’s Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (S. 469) authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations permitting wholesalers, licensed U.S. pharmacies, and individuals to import drugs from licensed Canadian sellers that are manufactured at facilities inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. Within two years, the Secretary could expand rules allowing importation from other advanced countries.