Senator Jeff Merkley has made it his personal mission to reduce prescription drug prices in the United States.
While the Senate debates Pres. Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, Merkley said this plan may be the answer he’s been looking for.
At a press conference last week, Merkley said something needs to be done to reduce what Americans pay for prescription drugs.
“This is America, we pay more than people in other developed countries,” Merkley said. “We should get the best prices for drugs, but that’s not how it works because our laws are weak. It is a real tragedy for Americans who have to decide whether they want to pay the rent or take drugs. “
He simply said that the average American spends $ 1,200 a year on prescription drugs, far more than anywhere else in the world. He said he frequently hears from worried Oregon residents, telling the story of an elderly woman who pays more than half of her fixed income on drugs each month.
“These are the reasons I brought in the Drugs Prices Act,” Merkley said. “But the drug lobby is very powerful, and I haven’t had a chance to bring it to the Senate.”
But the Build Back Better proposal contains some key elements that Merkley supports. One would cap at $ 2,000 what seniors will have to pay out of pocket each year. The second would limit insulin costs to no more than $ 35 per month. A third would allow Medicare to begin negotiating drug prices with suppliers.
“This is the first step, the first foot in the door for America to lower the price of prescription drugs,” Merkley said.
One person who would be thrilled if the law passed is Jessica Schockmel, an Oregonian and a mother with type 1 diabetes. She said offering her the drugs, which just keeps her alive, has been a constant struggle.
“Until a cure is found, insulin is the only treatment for type 1 diabetes,” Schockmel said. “It is as vital to me as water is to others.”
Schockmel has lived on insulin since he was 10 years old and admits there have been times when buying his medication has caused his family to run out elsewhere. She also sometimes cut back on medications, used expired medications, and took other steps to save money.
“We struggled to eat rather than buy a bottle of insulin that was just for me,” she said. “Over the years, I have begged, borrowed, used expired insulin, and reused materials.”
Schockmel said in January that a three-month supply of insulin cost him $ 1,600.
“I am a real person who has struggled for years not only with an illness but also to raise a family,” said Schockmel. “It’s not a political problem, it’s a problem for America. Diabetes doesn’t care which side of the aisle you are on.
Gil Muñoz, CEO of Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, also said the Build Back Better steps would make a big difference.
“The new legislation would ensure that no one has to choose between buying medicine, putting food on the table or paying rent,” he said.
Yvonne Smith, a full-time professor of gerontology at Clackamas Community College and a member of the executive board of AARP Oregon, said the move would particularly benefit seniors, who often find it most difficult to pay for expensive drugs.
“I have seen families go bankrupt trying to cover the cost of drugs,” Smith said. “It is important that we keep the prescription drug deal in the Build Back Better Act. “
Merkley closed the conference by saying something needs to be done.
“People aren’t making a profit,” Merkley said. “They are human beings. We have the answer, we have the invoice. All the cases of people not taking drugs, cutting drugs, they wouldn’t have to if they were in a righteous country.
Merkley said the Senate has reached agreement on many of the key Build Back Better issues, and he hopes it can be approved by the Senate before Christmas.