Klobuchar: “A good deal for the taxpayers of this country and a good deal for customers.”
WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called for Congress to take action to lower prescription drug costs, highlighting new legislation she introduced to decrease prices while increasing access to medications.
“America pays more, the people of this country pay more for their prescription drugs than any other country in the world. How can that be, when it is our country, our companies who are invested in all this research? How can we come up short when it comes to what our people are paying for drugs?” Senator Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar urged her colleagues in Congress to debate the Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act, which would allow Medicare to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the Veterans’ Administration (VA). The prices the VA pays for prescription drugs are roughly half the amount of prices paid by Medicare Part D for the same products.
Klobuchar has long been a leader in the fight to lower prescription drug costs for Minnesota families and seniors. In April, she joined Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to introduce the bipartisan Stop Stalling Act, which would promote competition within the prescription drug market and reduce drug prices. She further introduced bicameral legislation with Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) last March to allow Medicare to negotiate affordable drug prices for seniors.
Last February, Klobuchar and Grassley also led legislation to allow Americans to safely import more affordable prescription drugs from Canada.
We have joined together to introduce the Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act, because that's what we should be doing. America pays more, the people of this country pay more for their prescription drugs than any other country in the world.
How can that be when it is our country, our companies who are invested in all this research? How can we come up short when it comes to what our people are paying for drugs?
The examples in the past five years: the cost of Lyrica, a drug that you see advertised on TV, millions of dollars in ads, a drug that treats nerve pain, or Symbicort, an asthma medicine, increased almost 50 percent. Results of these kinds of increases? Nearly 20 percent of older adults reported not taking their medicines as prescribed because of the costs. Last month alone, Madam President, drug companies hiked the price of 742 drugs in America.
What do we do? We sit. We sit, we talk about it, and we're not taking action. That is why Senator Sanders and I are putting our bill in today. We would love to spend the week debating it. We would like to move to this bill so we can get this done.
We know that prescription drug prices in the United States are more than 250 percent higher than other industrialized nations. What is our simple solution?
The V.A., the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that we empower with the lives of our veterans and their health care, negotiates the prices of the drugs it purchases and dispenses for our nation’s veterans. One report found that the V.A.’s price is often half as much as what Medicare pays. Why? It's simple. The V.A. negotiates for prices. Medicare doesn’t.
I kind of think -- and Senator Sanders and I know this well -- that 46 million seniors in America could get a pretty good deal if you allowed the government to negotiate on their behalf.
A good deal for the taxpayers of this country, for people that care about deficits, for people that care about the bottom-line budget, and a good deal for customers. And guess what? It wouldn't just help seniors. Because that's such a large block of customers in this country that it would bring down the drug costs for everyone.
The stories in my state, people like Claire from St. Paul, when the cost of the prescription drugs she relied on to manage her rheumatoid arthritis jumped from $60 per month to $1,400 per month, she could no longer afford it. In her words, her arthritis became so bad that she could barely handle a fork and a knife.
Or the young man who was a manager of a restaurant, full-time job, when he aged off his parents' insurance, what happened to him? And you know this story, Madam President, he started to ration his insulin, he had severe diabetes, and he died. And his mother has made her life about getting better drug prices.
And Senator Sanders and I believe you start with the biggest buying block. You start with seniors. You get that negotiation going. And it will make a big difference. For people who believe in free markets and negotiation and competition, I don't know how you can say no to this proposal. It is time to allow this to be debated, to move forward with this bill. Let's get it on the floor and call it up for a vote.