Congress

Focus on Congress

From the office of Rep. Val Demings

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) voted for H.R. 3, a bill to lower prescription drug costs for American families, and to cover dental, vision, and hearing services under Medicare for the first time. The legislation, which passed the House of Representatives and will now go to the Senate, was named in honor of U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, who passed away earlier this year.

Rep. Val Demings

One Ocoee mother, Victoria Sullivan Eaton, said “As a family personally impacted by type one diabetes (T1D)—a chronic, autoimmune disease—we feel the significant impacts of the rising cost of insulin daily. Having an affordable and predictable out-of-pocket cost for insulin is critical for families like mine, and we are grateful that Congress is looking carefully into this issue to support their constituents who live with, or love those with T1D.”

Said Rep. Demings, “When America elected Democrats to the majority in the House of Representatives, we promised transformative legislation to bring down health care costs for the American people. Today we are continuing to keep that promise, passing groundbreaking legislation to allow Medicare to use its massive influence to negotiate with drug companies and force them to bring down costs for all Americans. This bill will also finally expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing services, which are vital to our health and quality of life.

“No American should ever be priced out of lifesaving medical treatment, yet one third of Americans report that they or a loved one has had to skip doses, leave prescriptions unfilled, or simply forgo treatment entirely. Other countries do not have these same struggles, and I believe that in the greatest country on Earth, we shouldn’t either.

“While our Congress has been one of the most productive in history, many of the bipartisan bills we have passed have been locked up in the Senate. I urge Senator McConnell, for the sake of our families and our communities, to allow a vote on this legislation.”

Background

A full summary can be found here.

H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, would expand health care coverage and would empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices. By forcing companies to bring down costs, Americans who rely on private insurance will also benefit from lower prices.

Rep. Demings previously commissioned a special report on insulin prices in the 10th District. The report shows that because Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices, the costs to Medicare are nearly four times higher than in the United Kingdom, five times higher than in Australia, and three times higher than in Canada. For uninsured patients, the costs can be as much as 21 times higher.

H.R. 3 will do the following:

  • Authorize the government to negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower drug costs.
  • Cap annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs under Medicare.
  • Reinvest the savings in lower out-of-pocket costs, closing coverage gaps, investing in R&D, and fighting the opioid crisis.
  • Add new dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare for the first time.
    • 96% of beneficiaries in Florida’s 10th District (105,200 people) would gain dental benefits.
    • 71% of beneficiaries in Florida’s 10th District (77,300 people) would gain vision benefits.
    • 73% of beneficiaries in Florida’s 10th District (70,200 people) would gain hearing benefits.

Drug price negotiations would affect the 250 most expensive drugs in the country. These drugs are half of all Medicare Part D spending. They are needed by tens of millions of patients.

Out of pocket costs for patients would be capped at $2,000. One-third of Americans say that they or a family member have skipped medication because they could not afford it.

According to AARP, the average annual cost of prescription drugs rose nearly 58 percent between 2012 and 2017. H.R. 3 would require drug companies to pay rebates to patients if they increase prices faster than the rate of inflation.

In Florida, 9.8% of residents – 1,944,189 people – live with diabetes. Over the past decade, the price of insulin has increased by 197%, and Medicare Part D spending on insulin has increased by 840%. For the most commonly used insulin medications, Florida residents spend anywhere from $1,200 to $20,000 annually. Under H.R. 3, Florida residents could spend 3.5 times less on insulin.

H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of the insulin NovoLOG Flexpen by 76% from $19,800 to $4,800 per year. Under H.R. 3, some commonly used insulins can cost as little as $400 per year.

In 2019, an estimated 19,130 women in Florida will be diagnosed with breast cancer. H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of breast cancer medication Ibrance by 65% from $69,000 to $23,900 per year.

In 2019, an estimated 4,980 people in Florida will be diagnosed with leukemia. H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of the leukemia medication Tasigna by 71% from $93,700 to $27,400 per year.

In 2019, an estimated 11,860 people in Florida will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. H.R. 3 can lower the average total cost of prostate cancer medication Zytiga by 66% from $109,500 to $37,400 per year.

21.5% of Florida residents have arthritis, 38% of whom experience severe joint pain because of it. H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most arthritis drugs from $40,000 to $10,000 per year.

About 7.5% or 1,258,262 Florida residents live with asthma. H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most asthma drugs from $1,400 to $270 per year.

In 2015, 4,783 Florida residents were diagnosed with HIV. H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most HIV drugs from $15,000 to $6,000 per year.

One million people are living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the United States. H.R. 3 can lower their total costs on most MS drugs from $40,000 to $13,000 per year.

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