The new data may be tough to digest – about as tough as swallowing the pills behind the research. Consumers are paying nearly twice as much for prescription medication, according to findings by Reuters News.
Major drug companies have doubled listed charges for four of the nation’s top 10 drugs, including medicine for arthritis, high cholesterol and asthma. The change has cost consumers, employers and government health programs billions of dollars.
Nearly all presidential candidates hope to change this taxing reality, but most of their plans will fail because they don’t address the true problem behind the increases.
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump support a popular idea of letting the federal Medicare program negotiate prices to some degree, according to a Feb. 24 CNN Money report. Yet, the GOP-led Congress banned such an idea in 2003. Experts say the concept will not help consumers.
“Even the Obama administration, which proposed allowing Medicare to negotiate for very high-cost drugs as part of its fiscal 2017 budget, estimates no savings from the provision,” health policy correspondent Julie Rovner shares via Kaiser Health News. Critics fear this could cause backlash against Medicare.
Clinton has also proposed an idea to cap how much patients pay out of pocket for drugs. Though six states have taken steps in this direction, it merely shifts the amount owed back to insurance companies. Inevitably, consumers will pay for those prices with premiums and other fees that would likely follow.
“You’re really just requiring everyone else (in the insurance pool) to pay those costs,” Alissa Fox in a Feb. 26 PBS News report. Fox is a spokesperson for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
The cost of medicine is a major part of the nation’s health care budget. These expenses account for nearly $1 out of every $5 spent on an employer’s health insurance benefits program.
Drug companies have the power to increase prices however they see fit, and some moves have come with controversy. This past year, former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli made headlines after the company announced plans to hike the price of Daraprim by 5,000 percent. The drug was developed six decades ago and fights a parasitic infection mostly in HIV patients.
The move was unpopular – yet – completely legal.
“When it comes time to negotiate the cost of drugs, we are going to negotiate like crazy,” Trump said at a campaign event in New Hampshire in February.
Promising to lower drug costs is noble. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 93 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans like the idea. Yet, the biggest problem is getting a law approved. A move like this would require an act of Congress. Considering the money behind the powerful drug industry, the future president will be hard-pressed to find support from both sides of the aisle.
Similar proposals have come before Congress in years past. None have come close to passage.