Today, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is releasing a drug-pricing policy to bring down prescription costs and protect investment in developing new, life-saving drugs. It specifically targets out-of-pocket costs and looks to reign in the abuses of big pharmaceutical companies.
“Time and time again, Washington has proven that it’s either uninterested in or incapable of addressing this problem. Instead of siding with Americans, politicians have stood with corporate health care, as they did when Congress barred the federal government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies on drug prices for seniors,” Buttigieg’s new plan reads.
The mayor notes that while America is leading the world in research, the American people are struggling to afford the breakthroughs on new medicines. Buttigieg’s plan points out that Americans pay $600 more a year than other developed countries on prescription drugs than people in many developed nations around the world.
That’s leading to deadly consequences, Buttigieg explains.
“In June 2019, Jesmiya David Scherer-Radcliff, a 21-year-old from Minnesota who lived with diabetes, died while rationing his insulin. He could not afford this life-saving drug despite working two jobs,” Buttigieg’s plan says.
Calling it his Medicine for All proposal, Buttigieg aims to as president: cut by at least 50% the amount seniors pay on out-of-pocket drug spending; cap at under $250 out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs for those on Buttigieg’s Medicare For Those Who Want It; set a $0 copay for generic medicines for low-income people on Medicare; cut the median out-of-pocket spending for people with cancer on Medicare Part D by at least $5,100, and by $2,000 for people with immune disorders; end all deaths from insulin rationing; reduce the cost of naloxone, the drug for opioid overdoses.
To accomplish these goals, Buttigieg’s policy points are as follows:
- Guarantee everyone has access to affordable prescription drugs through requirements of Medicare and Medicare for All Who Want It.
- Allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to make drugs more affordable for everyone.
- Hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for price gouging by exercising ‘eminent domain’ to take patents away from “worst offenders” that refuse to lower prices for essential drugs.
- Rein in outrageous drug price increases by penalizing pharmaceutical companies that raise prices by more than inflation
The pieces of the policy that are aimed at investing in new and safe medications are:
- Expand public investment in the development and manufacturing of medicines to address significant unmet needs, including antibiotics and medicines to protect against pandemics.
- Support state innovation to improve drug affordability and access, including by piloting subscription models and value-based contracting.
- Bring transparency to drug pricing.
- Support the development of complex generic medicines and increase competition to lower prices.
- Secure the quality and safety of drugs produced at home and abroad
John Hale, a former volunteer president for AARP in Iowa, has been traveling around the state in support of Buttigieg, in part because of the candidate’s health care plans.
“Too many Iowans struggle to pay for prescription drugs,” Hale, a former Fort Dodge city councilman, said. “Mayor Pete understands that Washington’s inaction on lowering costs has real-life consequences — prescriptions aren’t filled, pills are rationed, people choose between taking their medicine or paying their rent. Pete believes that it’s time for new leadership that will solve problems rather than talk about them.”
Laura Sands, who was a senior program manager for SafeNetRX in Iowa, which helps Iowans access affordable medicines, liked Buttigieg’s new approach.
By Josh Cook
Photo by Julie Fleming