In August, Congressional Democrats upheld a promise we made to families across America — to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Throughout my career, I’ve made it a priority to deliver on this for New Mexicans, which is why I was proud to help pass the Inflation Reduction Act to allow Medicare to compete and negotiate prescription drug prices and cap out-of-pocket costs for drugs in Medicare.
It’s a sad reality that no matter how hard Americans work, many of the medicines they depend on remain out of reach because of high prices, forcing them to skip doses, ration medicine, or sometimes even forgoing care all together. Half of all adults in America take at least one prescribed medicine. However, about a third of adults don’t take their medicines as prescribed because they can’t afford the prescription.
I’ve heard from countless New Mexicans urging action to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Almost half of all New Mexicans have skipped taking medication or not filled a prescription because of the cost. These are our friends, family members, and neighbors. Families shouldn’t have to choose between life-saving prescription drugs and paying the rent.
Recently, Secretary Xavier Becerra joined me in Las Cruces to discuss lowering prescription drug costs. We met with seniors, including Mike and Irene, who described having to choose between replacing the roof over their home and a medication that could save Mike’s eyesight. We also heard from a senior whose prescription drugs were an outrageous $90,000 a year. The Inflation Reduction Act will change this for New Mexicans like Mike and Irene.
For too long, drug companies have been able to raise the prices of prescription drugs unchecked, boosting profits, and enriching corporate executives at the expense of our families’ health. Last year alone, drug companies have hiked the prices of over 1,100 prescription drugs.
The drug pricing reforms that Congress passed are historic. It enables Medicare to finally negotiate lower drug prices, which means that Americans and taxpayers will no longer need to foot the bill for prices dictated by drug companies. There is broad support for drug pricing reform and for negotiating prices in Medicare across political parties, despite Congressional Republicans voting against this measure.
The legislation we passed will rein in inflated profits and take away the drug corporations monopoly power to raise prices as high as they want. It will ensure that the 6,350 Medicare Part D enrollees in New Mexico will not pay more than $2,000 in out-of-pocket prescription drug costs. Rather than charging Americans three times more than they charge people in other countries for the same drug or raising drug prices faster than the rate of inflation, this industry will have to follow basic rules that ensure consumers get a fair deal on medicines they need.
Now, the 23,060 New Mexicans on Medicare will have their insulin costs capped at $35 per month. A physician recently shared with my office, “It’s heartbreaking to see patients whose diabetic complications can be prevented with affordable insulin.” The Inflation Reduction Act will change this.
Lowering prescription drug prices is a key part of the Democratic agenda because we understand that a status quo that benefits Big Pharma at the expense of our families is just plain wrong.
I thank New Mexico families for sharing their stories with me and joining me in delivering on our promise to make prescription drugs more affordable. It is time to make health care truly a right — not a privilege — in this country. And this legislation gets us one step closer to making that a reality.
U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján is a Democrat representing New Mexico.