Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515
Wyden Statement on Senate Floor on Bipartisan Drug Pricing Package
As Prepared for Delivery
This summer while American families enjoyed time away from work and school, Big Pharma revved up their influence machine to dismantle bipartisan legislation aimed at bringing down drug costs.
In July, the Finance Committee passed legislation that constitutes the most serious bipartisan effort in recent memory to lower drug prices. It’s the result of months and months of work by members on both sides.
Pharma wants to shred our bill into confetti.
The bill comes down to two key proposals. First is an out of pocket cap in Medicare that will save seniors $27 billion in the next decade. It will end the era when prescription drugs forced seniors into bankruptcy.
The second key proposal is the one that really has Pharma mobilizing their lobbyist armies. It’s a price hike penalty for drug makers that saves Medicare $50 billion.
If they raise prices faster than inflation, they’ll have to pay the difference back to Medicare. No more outrageous, unjustifiable price increases to please the shareholders at everybody else’s expense. No more taxpayer subsidies for price hikes.
But Pharma will do anything they can to protect the status quo – to keep the prices climbing upward and keep the profits rolling in.
Their lobbyists are walking the halls here on Capitol Hill. Drug company executives are writing big checks to try to buy votes. Pharma’s fear mongering messages have spread in op-eds attacking our legislation.
They absurdly call it “inhumane” for the Finance Committee to try to fix this broken system and bring down drug prices. They smear it as “socialism.” One op-ed said that the Medicare drug program could cease “to function as a market entirely” if drug companies no longer got away with limitless price increases. Others have even claimed that drug prices are falling nationwide, which millions of seniors can tell you is absolute fiction, based on the trips they take to the pharmacy window.
Here’s my bottom line. Pharma’s had just about the longest winning streak in Washington. They cannot win this time. The Finance Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to create a price hike penalty for drug makers, and the drug makers want it gone from our legislation. That cannot be allowed to happen.
So the question is whether the Senate is going to hand Pharma the power of the line-item veto. Whether Pharma gets to comb over our proposals and strike down anything that might curtail their price increases or cut into their profits. If Pharma can prevent the Senate from taking even the first basic steps to bring down drug prices, then I want to know what comes next. Is the drug lobby going to get their own desks here on the Senate Floor? At least then their influence wouldn’t be as hidden in the shadows of the Capitol.
Colleagues, the prices of prescription drugs in America are out of control. The Finance Committee passed legislation that takes helpful steps to do something about it.
Pharma should not get to overrule 19 Senators on the Finance Committee, Democrats and Republicans. Pharma should not get to gobble up $50 billion in Medicare dollars that our legislation would otherwise save.
The legislation our committee passed gets to the heart of how drug companies have managed to manipulate and abuse our broken health care system for far too long. No constraints on drug companies at all. Seniors on the hook for huge costs when they’re prescribed expensive drugs.
And it’s not just a crisis in Medicare. In a recent study nearly a third of American adults said that at some point in the last year they chose not to take medication as prescribed because of the cost. Take the example of insulin, which is several times as expensive as it was just a few years ago. By now, every member of the Senate has been confronted with tragic stories about people who’ve died after self-rationing the insulin they need to manage their diabetes.
Rising drug costs force Americans into impossible choices. You’re robbed of your savings if you get your prescriptions filled. You’re robbed of your health if you don’t.
The legislation the Finance Committee passed in July begins to change this broken system. I want to go a lot further. For example, I believe that it’s long overdue for Medicare to have the power to bargain with drug makers directly for lower drug prices. But at a minimum, the bipartisan legislation the Finance Committee approved must not be picked apart by Pharma lobbyists.
On this side, my colleagues and I will continue to fight to get this legislation passed by the full Senate. For now it’s up to Leader McConnell to bring our bill to the floor this fall. Americans who are battling illnesses and struggling to pay for their medications cannot wait. They cannot afford to be shunted aside while the Senate favors business as usual for the drug makers.
Colleagues, every one of us knows how big this crisis has become. I just got back from Oregon, where I held town hall meetings all over the state. The issue of prescription drug costs came up at every one of them.
Pharma’s winning streak has to end here. For the Senate to cave and allow Pharma to block the price-hike penalty would be an outrage. I’m going to keep up this fight. I urge my colleagues to stand with me.
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