Prescription drug prices are rising faster than summer temperatures in the Sonoran Desert. For more than a decade now, Arizonans have seen common prescription drugs double or triple in price. What’s more, this has left many vulnerable communities, especially seniors on Medicare, struggling to pay for their life-subsisting prescription drugs.
Instead of taking their medication as prescribed, many Arizonans are rationing doses or not filling their prescriptions because the cost is too high. Both options place many of our neighbors in risky and dangerous positions. However, there is a way—currently standing before Congress—to end these life-threatening scenarios.
Senator Chuck Grassley’s Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA) would help Medicare beneficiaries pay for their prescription drugs and would mitigate price hikes. Potentially, this bill would help the 36 percent of Arizonans who ration or do not fill their prescriptions and the 26 percent of residents who stopped taking their prescription drugs altogether because they could no longer afford these medications.
The PDPRA reforms Medicare and protects beneficiaries from rising prescription drug prices. Among the protections in the bill is an annual $3,100 cap on out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, meaning they would no longer be responsible for virtually unlimited out-of-pocket costs to cover high drug bills.
Instead, the responsibility of covering those costs would be passed primarily to insurance and pharmaceutical companies. This transfer of duty would encourage insurance companies to negotiate lower drug prices, as their bottom lines could be affected in the long run.
Shifting responsibilities is one of two ways the PDPRA addresses rising prescription costs. The second method is Congress financially penalizing companies that raise their drug prices faster than the rate of inflation. This in turn would discourage price gouging – and, as a byproduct of this measure, Americans who are not on Medicare would also see steady prices in the consumer market.
In addition to penalties and out-of-pocket caps, the PDPRA would allow the public to see how the pharmaceutical industry prices its products. This transparency into drug prices would serve as another check on the industry and would deter companies from excessively increasing prices (as now consumers can see whether those price hikes are justified).
These measures, as outlined in the PDPRA, have received wide support from Arizona voters. For example, a recent survey found that 82 percent of voters support requiring pharmaceutical companies to reveal their pricing schemes.
Despite voter approval, the PDPRA still needs votes in the Senate to pass Congress.
Fortunately, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally understands how rising prescription drug costs have harmed our state. She has spoken with constituents on how the issue has affected them and has met with pharmacies to investigate the cause and impact of price hikes.
This has all demonstrated her commitment to the issue – and, as a constituent, I am grateful for this. I am also hopeful that Senator McSally will support the PDPRA to help resolve this crisis. The PDPRA is the most comprehensive bill in Congress that provides transparency, protects seniors on Medicare, and helps manage prescription drug price increases. With Senator McSally’s support, we can take a major step forward in making prescription drugs more affordable.
Dr. David Bailie, a Scottsdale-based orthopedic surgeon, is an expert in the area of sports medicine and has been a practicing medical doctor since 1990.