Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced House passage of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, landmark legislation that reduces the cost of prescription drugs by empowering Medicare to negotiate the cost of drugs, caps out-of-pocket costs in Medicare Part D at $2,000, and requires drug companies to issue rebates if their costs rise faster than inflation.
The bill makes negotiated prescription prices available to Medicare recipients as well as Americans covered under private insurance. Congressman Higgins has long supported giving Medicare the ability to negotiate drug costs, a practice that the Department of Veterans Affairs is already able to do which saves them billions of taxpayer dollars per year.
Earlier in the year the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Congressman Higgins is a member, marked up H.R. 3 as well as the separate bills extending Medicare coverage to vision, dental, and hearing services.
In the markup, Higgins cited a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that found that if Medicare Part D paid for prescription drugs similar to what the Department of Veterans Affairs pays there would be an annual savings between 38% and 50%. The savings created by negotiating would then be reinvested into expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, vision, and hearing services, greatly improving the health care of millions of Americans with no additional cost to the federal government.
This week, Congressman Higgins delivered a speech from the House floor noting that prescription drug prices in the United States have been rising at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world for the past 25 years.
“Patients continue to face enormous year-over-year price increases on the drugs they need. In the first half of 2018, for every drug that saw a price decrease, 96 drugs saw a price increase. We also know that drug price hikes are almost never connected to any evidence of innovation or improved benefit. Why do drug companies raise the prices of existing drugs? Because they can. It is imperative that we protect patients both from unaffordable drug prices and unjustified price increases on those drugs,” Higgins said.
Included in H.R. 3 is language reauthorizing and expanding the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) program, which provides job training for health professions that are in demand or experiencing shortages. Included in that language is a bill Congressman Higgins introduced, the Opioid Treatment Providers Act, which expands the definition of who is eligible for HPOGs to include opioid treatment providers. Buffalo is one of 32 communities in the nation that administers a HPOG program.
The legislation also invests $1.98 billion annually between 2021 and 2025 to address nation’s opioid crisis, includes $6 billion annually over the same period for Community Health Centers, and provides additional funding to the National Institutes of Health through 2030 including 1.56 billion for cancer research, $2.04 billion to the BRAIN Initiative, $2.07 billion to the Precision Medicine Initiative and $530.6 million for rare disease research.
In New York’s 26th Congressional district there are more than 119,000 people enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, and 470,000 enrolled in private insurance, all of whom would benefit from the savings that H.R. 3 would create.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that H.R. 3 would reduce the federal deficit by $5.4 billion over the next ten years. The bill passed the House by a vote of 230-192, and awaits consideration by the senate.