COHOES, N.Y. — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited Marra’s Pharmacy in Cohoes to announce her policy package to slash prescription drug prices, the “Gillibrand Prescription for Lower Drug Prices,” and pushed congressional leaders to take action on reducing drug prices. Joined by Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler, Assemblyman John McDonald, and Deputy Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council Gail Myers, Gillibrand outlined the tenets of the bill package, which would help tackle the high cost of prescription drugs.
“While our nation is recovering from the pandemic, drug prices remain unacceptably high, which puts a heavy financial burden on older adults and families in Cohoes and across the country,” Gillibrand, member of the Aging Committee, said.
“I am releasing the ‘Gillibrand Prescription for Lower Drug Prices’ plan to provide a framework for slashing drug prices. From fighting price gouging to importing affordable drugs from Canada to enabling Medicare to negotiate drug prices, this plan will help us bring down costs for countless Americans,” Gillibrand explained.
“In a working-class community like Cohoes, access to affordable prescription drugs is not a theoretical policy issue for debate, it is a kitchen table problem to be solved. People should not have to make a choice between paying for food or filling a prescription, but they do,” Keeler remarked.
“We are grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s leadership in working to find solutions that will protect the health of all in our community, particularly our most vulnerable seniors for whom prescription drugs are often essential but too expensive,” Keeler added.
“Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for supporting legislation in Congress to address prescription affordability,” McDonald III, RPh commented.
“As a practicing pharmacist and state legislator, I understand the obstacles and how the high cost of prescriptions impacts our community members. I will continue to advocate on the state level for legislation that improves our current system and appreciate the partnership of our federal colleagues on this issue,” McDonald III, RPh added.
“Older New Yorkers are worried about being able to afford their Medicare premiums and their prescription drug costs. We are pleased to stand with Sen. Gillibrand today because she has heard these concerns and knows that economic security for all NYers includes health care benefits that meet their needs,” Gail Myers, Deputy Director, New York StateWide Senior Action Council remarked.
“We thank her for working to raise the income eligibility to 200%FPL for the Medicare Savings Program and the low-income subsidy/Extra Help with prescription drug costs. This measure will put money back into the pockets of lower-income Medicare enrollees and help them make ends meet. Importantly, her efforts to reign in the price of prescription drug costs through other methods, including removing the ban on Medicare negotiating prices, will be transformative for years to come and will be a relief for all New Yorkers,” Myers added.
The core pieces of the “Gillibrand Prescription for Lower Drug Prices” are:
Under current law, the secretary of HHS is prohibited from negotiating lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. In contrast, other government programs, like Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are allowed to negotiate. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, Medicare paid twice as much for the same prescription drugs as the VA in 2017.
In 2020, five of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. made nearly $45 billion in profits. That same year, in the midst of a twin public health and economic crisis, drugmakers raised the prices of more than 860 prescription drugs by 5%, on average. In 2020, the average annual cost of therapy for widely-used specialty drugs was more than $84,000. This is nearly three times the median income for people on Medicare and more than four and half times the average Social Security retirement benefit.
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