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Vermont Representative Among Sponsors Of Prescription Drug Pricing Bill

From left: Representatives Lloyd Doggett, Peter Welch and Elijah Cummings
Representative Lloyd Doggett/Facebook
From left: Representatives Lloyd Doggett, Peter Welch and Elijah Cummings

A trio of U.S. House representatives, including Vermont Democrat Peter Welch, introduced legislation this week aimed at lowering prescription drug prices.
Saying their Republican counterparts in Congress are ignoring working families and their needs, Democrats are continuing their efforts to pass legislation to lower prescription prices.  Representatives Peter Welch of Vermont, Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, all Democrats, have announced the introduction of The Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act.

Representative Doggett acknowledged that while the idea is not new, this proposal has three parts to ensure prices are lowered.  “First we would repeal and replace the current Republican imposed restriction on Medicare negotiations so that Medicare could negotiate in much the same way that the Veteran’s Administration does for lower prices today. Second if the negotiations are not successful we authorize the use of competition to lower prices.  And third during the transition period for generic competitors to get approved, to manufacture and to market a lower interim price would be set for each pharmaceutical based upon what the price is in the largest, most developed countries around the world.”

Vermont’s Peter Welch says the U.S. is the only country where the government does not step in to help consumers when they’re getting ripped off by pharmaceutical companies.  “The pharma companies start the rip off because they get a government-granted monopoly and then abuse it to impose punitive, relentless, exorbitant, gouging prices on consumers. And it’s causing an immense amount of pain.  And it’s true that we need good drugs to alleviate suffering, to extend life, but that’s not an excuse to kill people with the prices. And it’s just got to end.  And what’s terrific about Congressman Doggett’s legislation is that it says the government is going to step in and stop you from abusing consumers.”

Public Citizen President Rob Weissman says the new legislation would give government power that it should have had for years to negotiate drug prices.  “At Public Citizen we’ve studied this pretty carefully. We know conservatively if the government gives Medicare negotiating power over prescription drugs we the American people and we through the government and as consumers will save $16 billion a year, conservatively.”

Social Security Works President Nancy Altman notes that Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world.  “Imagine that you are on a fixed income, your sole source of support is your Social Security check which averages $15,000 a year. Imagine being faced with these high drug prices.  They are an indirect cut to Social Security. This legislation will result in lower drug prices and will actually widen access.”

Welch is optimistic that a new Congress will act swiftly on a number of bills that address drug pricing.  “When we arrive we want to hit the ground running. We believe your government, our government, has a duty to protect health and safety and access. And unless we address the price gouging access is going to be out of reach. We are going to change things.”

The Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act has more than 60 co-sponsors.  This month, 65 members of the U.S. House, including Vermont Congressman Peter Welch, formed the Congressional Medicare for All Caucus.


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