August 05,2020

Grassley, Ernst op-ed: Iowans have spoken: Make prescription drugs affordable

The measure roots out unfair pricing shenanigans and perverse payment incentives that allow pharmaceutical companies to take advantage of the system at taxpayer and patient expense.

By Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst


For two weeks this July, we crisscrossed our state, carrying forward a tradition started by Senator Grassley 40 years ago to meet with Iowans in every county, every year. On this road trip, we each reached Iowans in 29 counties. Like Iowa students who are eager to return to their classrooms and campuses in August, we sure were grateful to meet directly with our constituents.


In these challenging times, the feedback we’re getting from Iowans has renewed our commitment to get urgently needed policies across the finish line.


We hear from Iowans nearly every single day about their struggle to afford their prescription medication. Parents with insulin-dependent children go out of their minds with worry amid rising co-pays and high deductibles, for example.


We’ve led a bipartisan reform effort to drive down prescription drug prices, reduce out-of-pocket expenses for patients and save taxpayer money without harming pharmaceutical innovation that Americans have come to expect. Chairman Grassley convened a series of congressional hearings, calling Big Pharma and pharmacy benefit managers to the witness table to testify about the four corners of their pricing structure and how that squares with soaring prices consumers pay at the pharmacy counter. Two-thirds of the Senate Finance Committee approved our bipartisan Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act (PDPRA) a year ago this month. Since then, we’ve rolled up our sleeves to grow support and deliver the bill to the desk of President Donald Trump, who in February at his State of the Union address told Congress he would sign legislation to reduce drug prices for the American people.


Now, Senate Democrats — led by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York — after helping write our drug pricing reform bill, are walking away from the table. Have they lost their minds? We’re in the middle of a pandemic. It’s indefensible. While our best and brightest are working around the clock to develop a vaccine and our front-line workers are caring for the sick and dying, partisan Democrats are marching in lockstep to prevent Republicans from taking credit for lowering drug prices.


We’re not backing down from this fight. We’ll use every tool at our disposal to get drug pricing reform to the president’s desk.


As much as people yearn for a vaccine to kick COVID-19 to the curb, Iowans are just as desperate for elected officials to stop the partisan bellyaching. The Democrats think they can hammer Republicans and the White House for not lowering prescription drug prices for sick and dying Americans. Their partisan strategy is a reckless political miscalculation that boils down to legislative malpractice. 


We’re committed to getting our drug pricing reform bill across the finish line. It roots out unfair pricing shenanigans and perverse payment incentives that allow pharmaceutical companies to take advantage of the system at taxpayer and patient expense. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, our bill would save taxpayers $95 billion, reduce out-of-pocket expenses by $72 billion and reduce premiums by $1 billion. It’s disgraceful that Democrats who helped write this bill ditched bipartisanship to join their partisan bandwagon.


As Iowa’s U.S. senators, we’re working to make hay while the sun shines. Let’s pitch in together, get the job done and do what’s right for our constituents, not special interests.