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Tonko: Inflation Reduction Act good news for prescription drug costs

New York Congressman Paul Tonko was a guest on a recent telephone town hall hosted by AARP where he discussed the Inflation Reduction Act and lowering prescription drug prices.
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New York Congressman Paul Tonko was a guest on a recent telephone town hall hosted by AARP where he discussed the Inflation Reduction Act and lowering prescription drug prices.

New York Congressman Paul Tonko was a guest on a recent telephone town hall hosted by AARP where he discussed the Inflation Reduction Act and lowering prescription drug prices.

The event featured Democratic Capital Region Congressman Tonko and AARP's New York Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy David McNally. Earlier this year Tonko voted to let Medicare negotiate lower prescription drug prices. McNally says relief only came after decades of activism.

"We won the fight for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and help save people money on their medications," said McNally. "The Inflation Reduction Act for the first time authorizes Medicare to negotiate the prices of some high cost prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies, puts an annual $2,000 limit on how much Part D prescription drug plan members will have to pay out of pocket for their medications and levies tax penalties on drug makers that increased product prices by more than the rate of inflation. The new law also caps the cost of Medicare covered insulin at $35 a month, and it eliminates out of pocket costs for most vaccines under Medicare. And beginning in January, most vaccines will be free in Medicare."

McNally says AARP gathered signatures from more than 283,000 New York members statewide calling on Congress to pass those proposals.

Tonko, re-elected to an eighth term in November, says there are an estimated 10,200 Medicare beneficiaries receiving insulin in New York's 20th congressional district. He regards the Inflation Reduction Act as one of the most important measures passed in recent memory.

"This summer, I was proud to support this critical bill, which was signed into law by President Biden," said Tonko. "And thank you again for your help in advancing this transformational law that will address the most pressing challenges of our time. For far too long, big corporations have forced many Americans to choose between paying for health care, including life-saving medication, and insurance coverage, or putting food on the table. With the inflation Reduction Act now the law of the land, together we have taken bold steps to rein in out of control health care costs. So I'm proud indeed to have voted for this transformational legislation, which will lower health care costs for families across the Capital Region and the district that I represent. And, for that matter, all of New York state and the nation."

Tonko adds he is trying to ensure that enhanced dental, vision and hearing benefits will also be included under Medicare.

AARP Associate State Director Joe Stelling says town hall participants were surveyed during the call.

"And it looks like people are a bit split with just over a third of our audience, 36%, saying the most important provision here is to let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices, while 32%, almost a third, say that that out of pocket cap, that $2,000 cap is the most important thing to them," Stelling said. "And nearly a quarter of people say that penalizing drug companies who try to raise prices too fast is the most important provision. So clearly, people are like all of the things that this bill brings in."

You can listen to the complete town hall HERE.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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