Opinion Pieces

Goldendale Sentinel: Klickitat County seniors deserve better

The rising cost of prescription drugs is forcing seniors and other patients to take drastic measures in Southwest Washington. It’s not uncommon for me to hear from folks who are skipping doses, cutting pills in half or foregoing filling prescriptions altogether. Meanwhile, the price of insulin, blood pressure medicine and cholesterol-lowering drugs continue to rise. This is not right and it’s why I’m focusing my efforts in Congress to help lower the cost of drug prices.

Just a few weeks ago I voted in favor of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act to help lower the cost of insulin, cholesterol-lowering drugs and other life-saving medications on which our seniors and other residents must rely.

Perhaps most importantly, this bill would place a cap on the amount seniors pay for out-of-pocket prescriptions at $2,000 a year, which would make the price of insulin more affordable. It also requires drug companies to disclose truthful pricing information when advertising—and consumers deserve to have the facts. The bill also increases funding of National Institutes of Health research and clinical trials to develop new drug breakthroughs.

The Lower Drug Coasts Now Act wasn’t perfect, and I’ll work with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure it better ensure new cures aren’t inhibited and that we won’t encounter drug shortages that force seniors living in Klickitat County to wait for prescriptions that they need.

But we cannot wait for the perfect bill to act, and I’ve worked on other solutions in Congress to drive down high drug prices. For instance, I helped introduce the Lower Costs, More Cures Act in Congress, which also would cap seniors’ out-of-pocket costs. This single action would have helped about one million Americans save money in 2017. This bipartisan bill would also cap what seniors pay for their insulin after-deductible at $50 a month for seniors, making this life-saving drug more affordable for those suffering from diabetes.

And while lowering costs of insulin is important, there are plenty of other costly medications that Congress can help address. To help Southwest Washington residents access other affordable drugs, I also co-authored the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act. Many medications north of the border are identical to what Americans use and are significantly less expensive, so I’m working to remove the ban on Americans’ ability to purchase these affordable alternatives. Consumers could be confident that these drugs are meeting high safety standards, and the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services supports this move. Such a reform could help Seniors living in Klickitat County save thousands of dollars in medication costs every year.

Another bill I’ve championed to drive down the price of prescription drugs is the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, which removes barriers that are stopping lower-cost generic drugs from being sold to patients.

To those who are struggling to pay for their medications or fill their prescriptions—I hear you. No senior in Klickitat County should have to deplete their retirement savings to pay for heart medication or risk their life rationing insulin. Congress cannot wait any longer to help those who need medication to manage chronic conditions. The time to act is now.