For the first time in a long time, it feels like we have bipartisan consensus on an important issue: the out-of-control prices of prescription drugs.
President Donald Trump called on Congress during his State of the Union address to pass a bipartisan solution to address the cost of prescription drugs, and lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have backed measures that would tackle the problem.
The impetus to get something done is there, but lawmakers must get bipartisan solutions across the finish line.
Mainers know first-hand the burden brought on by out-of-control prescription drug prices. Recent polling shows that a vast majority — 93 percent — of Maine adults report the rising prices of prescription drugs as an “important” issue, while more than three in four report it as being a “very important” issue.
While the cost of prescription drugs is already high, the pharmaceutical industry seems committed to making prices rise even higher. In January of this year alone, drug companies hiked prices on more than 600 brand name drugs by an average of more than 5 percent.
Big Pharma essentially hikes prices with impunity, and with seemingly little to no regard for the patients who rely on these medications. They have repeatedly hiked prices on drugs that treat cancer, on drugs that treat heart disease, and on drugs that patients need to manage their diabetes and stay alive.
Drug companies have become accustomed to not being held accountable by lawmakers. It’s time for Congress to step-up and put a stop to the pharmaceutical industry’s egregious pricing tactics.
The market-based solutions that have won support from both sides of the aisle are currently stalled in the Senate and it is uncertain whether they will break free of the quicksand and be passed into law.
These solutions include disincentivizing price hikes by giving pharmaceutical companies significant liability in the catastrophic phase of Medicare Part D, increasing competition, boosting transparency, ensuring subsidies for price hikes don’t outpace inflation and securing relief for seniors by capping out-of-pocket costs.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that these solutions would save American taxpayers and Medicare Part D beneficiaries more than $130 billion and provide savings for patients who rely on private insurance as well.
Almost 75 percent of Maine voters support these solutions and want to see Congress pass bipartisan drug pricing reforms.
Thankfully for Mainers, our home state senator is leading the fight.
Sen. Susan Collins has endorsed these solutions and is leading the charge to get them passed into law.
However, Collins’ colleagues who remain on the fence must come around and act to advance this legislation.
With President Trump’s support and new polling coming out frequently that shows this issue is at the top of mind for voters heading into this year’s election, the time to deliver relief on prescription drug prices is now.
Thanks to Collins for backing bipartisan drug pricing solutions. I hope the rest of her colleagues will join you soon.
Scott Strom of Pittsfield represents District 106 in the Maine House of Representatives.