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Rep. Courtney Convenes Community Discussion in Groton on Fight to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

November 6, 2019
Press Release

GROTON, CT – Today, Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02) convened a panel discussion and community conversation in Groton, CT to address the skyrocketing costs of prescription medication, and to highlight the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) and the work being done in Congress to give Americans a better deal on prescription drugs.

Courtney was joined on the panel by regional health care experts Nora Duncan (Director, AARP Connecticut), Laura Hoch (Manager of Advocacy, National Multiple Sclerosis Society), and Judy Stein (Executive Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy). Together, the group outlined the growing problem of prescription drug price hiking, which impacts people of all ages and from all walks of life, and expressed mutual support H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, a legislative solution just recently introduced in Congress that would take calculated steps to give Americans a better deal on prescription medication. H.R. 3 would change the law by finally allowing for Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for fairer, lower drug prices; it would charge drug manufacturers a rebate if they increase the price of their drugs faster than inflation; it would create a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries; and would reinvest savings into research at the National Institutes of Health, and into improving Medicare. Today, the panelists discussed the importance of acting fast to pass and enact H.R. 3 into law so that people in eastern Connecticut can benefit from lower, more equitable drug prices.

Rep. Courtney is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3, and just recently voted to approve the bill during a legislation markup session with his colleagues on the Education and Labor Committee, setting it up for a final vote before the full House of Representatives. During today’s panel discussion and subsequent Question & Answer session with audience members, the real-world impact of skyrocketing drug costs was highlighted numerous times. Rep. Courtney drew attention to a table published in the New York Times that shows Americans are spending more than $1,200 more per capita on pharmaceuticals than citizens of Canada, France, or Mexico. Click here to view the table, along with Rep. Courtney’s online resource page for the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

“The Lower Drug Costs Now Act has a chance to be the most significant legislation on health care that the 116th Congress will accomplish,” said Congressman Courtney, following the discussion. “Prescription drug prices are out of control, and I’m proud that the House majority has made this issue one of our top priorities this year. In just the past few weeks, H.R. 3 was introduced, hearings were held, and my committee moved to approve the bill so that it can come before the full House of Representatives for a final vote. I’m grateful to Nora Duncan, Laura Hoch, and Judy Stein for joining me today in Groton to talk more about the importance of passing this bill, and to the Groton Senior Center for being such gracious hosts, and I’m looking forward to pressing ahead so that we can get H.R. 3 across the finish line once and for all.”

“In Connecticut, the average annual cost of prescription drug treatment increased [by] 57.8% between 2012 and 2017, while the annual income in Connecticut increased by only 12% over that same five-year period,” said Nora Duncan, AARP Connecticut. “In 2016 in Connecticut, 21% of people stopped taking their medication because they couldn’t afford it. […] Over the last few years, the same timeframe we’ve been talking about, the extra dollars in Medicare alone that were spent – paid for by taxpayers, paid for by Medicare recipients – on medications that exceed the general inflation rate […] is about $110 billion spent in what wouldn’t have to have been spent if we had just seen prices increase as the general rate of inflation. $110 billion is groceries for 25 million American families in a year. So we’re talking about 25 million families who may be choosing between their medications and groceries […] but instead what we’re doing is paying excessive rates over inflation.”

“Medicare is often the lead in what happens in health care and insurance,” said Judy Stein of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “When Medicare public dollars pay those increasing costs, then most people on private insurance start to see those increases happening as well. So this affects most Americans. […] I was told back in 2006 that the Secretary didn’t have the capability of negotiation, and I suggested to CMS at the time that they could get the capability […] and that Medicare has the largest patient pool to negotiate on behalf of. This bill, H.R. 3, is our first real chance of getting that to happen.”

“In Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, like many other chronic diseases, patients face astronomical costs for their drugs, and they only continue to rise,” said Laura Hoch of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “While many people who are first diagnosed are not of the age for Medicare, this disease isn’t fatal – people live with it for decades, so eventually they are aging into the Medicare population, and facing those catastrophic coverage prices that Congressman Courtney mentioned in his opening remarks, where they’re paying 5% of drugs that are sometimes 80 and 90 thousand dollars. H.R. 3 is a great first step in addressing the cost of drugs for Medicare patients, as well as patients in private plans, and really working towards fixing a part of our health care system that is not working.”

Visit Rep. Courtney’s website for more information on H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.