House passes lower drug cost bill; President Trump plans to veto

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Many Americans are struggling to keep up with the inflating cost of medicine. There are efforts in Washington D.C. to address the increasing cost of prescription medications.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a plan, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, on December 12, 2019 that aims to reduce costs, but it may face an uphill battle in the Senate.

Insulin prices have nearly tripled in the past decade, costing diabetic patients thousands of dollars. Zach Johnston was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 21 years old.

“I was down to 99 pounds when I found out,” he said.

Since his diagnosis, Zach has struggled to stay healthy. In the last two months, he was hospitalized twice for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Zach said the increasingly high price of insulin makes it difficult to keep up with his illness.

“Within a few months it quickly changed, I was only getting one vile for the same price of $50, where before I was getting three,” said Zach. “Even at the $50 for the one vile, it was adding up quickly.”

Zach switched to a cheaper insulin that would only cost about $26, but he said the insulin made him sick. Nurse Practitioner Gary Graf works with diabetic patients every day and explains that while the cheaper insulin still works, it is an ‘old model’ which is why it’s less expensive.

“The insulins that we have now are much more expensive than the insulins we had 25 years ago,” Graf explained, “Those are the ones that they sell for $26 a vile. They’re 25 years old.”

Zach would also ask doctors for free samples of insulin, just to get by. His father, who is also diabetic, would even share his insulin when Zach couldn’t afford it. But it isn’t an option for him to not take his insulin.

“For your type 1 patients, if you’re not taking insulin, you’re going to be very sick and you’ll be in the emergency room,” said Graf.

The plan passed by the U.S. House would mandate price negotiations by the Federal Government on drugs, which is currently not allowed. The plan would also penalize companies that raise the price of drugs at a rate higher than that of inflation.

One addition to the plan that is receiving bipartisan support is reducing the out-of-pocket cost of medications for Medicare patients. The House bill puts a limit of $2,000 deductible per year that a patient must pay on medications before it requires the drug companies and Medicare to pay the rest; in the Senate bill, the deductible is $3,100 per year.

The House passed the bill with a vote of 232 yea to 192 no. The Senate is working on a similar plan but it is still in committee. President Trump said if the bill makes it to his desk, he plans to veto it. The President released a statement ahead of the House vote that said the bill would, “…undermine access to lifesaving medications.” The release also says that the Administration would prefer the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019, introduced by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

Graf says, in the meantime, there are money-saving options that could help with high-drug costs including:

  • Coupons for medications like insulin
  • Discounts offered by prescription companies
  • Discounts by using cards like GoodRX on prescriptions
  • Call your insurance for help finding discounts

“You have to think outside the box, you have to know about these programs,” said Graf. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to the pharmaceutical sponsors that are out there. They’re more than glad to help fill in paperwork. There are programs out there.”

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