Too many Hoosiers are having to make the extremely difficult and profoundly unfair choice between buying the medicine they need to live or paying for other important necessities like food, clothing or rent. That’s because we are experiencing a nationwide, public health crisis that’s fueled in part by the out of control, ever-climbing costs of prescription drugs.
African Americans in particular — who disproportionately face higher rates of diabetes and other chronic conditions — are increasingly forced to cover the growing costs of their medications. This is especially true for those over 65 because Medicare does not cap their out-of-pocket health spending.
Higher prices mean that African American seniors are disproportionately harmed by the growing cost of their medications. And this is compounded by the fact that, on average, older African Americans rely significantly more on Social Security to pay for their out-of-pocket drug costs.
The average income of African American senior citizen households is around $18,000 less than their white counterparts, causing the high price of prescription drugs to affect minority seniors at a higher rate.
And in addition, the growing costs of drugs like insulin have put a financial strain on people living with diabetes. Between 2012 and 2016, the cost of an insulin prescription nearly doubled, which is particularly harmful for African Americans, whose risk of diabetes is 77% higher than that of non-Hispanic white people.
What’s even worse is that many prescription drug companies are using windfalls from these high prices to pad their profits or increase their advertising, instead of funding more research and innovation. It is important to note that most of the increased prescription drugs costs are coming from existing and older brand name drugs, not newer medicines or research.
The status quo of drug prices is clearly not working for Americans of any age and is unsustainable. Nobody should have to risk their own health because they can’t afford their medication, particularly in a nation as wealthy as the United States.
As your congressman, I’ve talked with many of you through the years about these issues, and I’ve worked hard to improve health care in our community and across the country. We made progress through landmark legislation like Obamacare, a law that I am working to protect and strengthen. But we must go further.
That’s why I’m incredibly excited about the introduction of H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which represents a major step in the effort to make prescription drugs more affordable for all Americans. It provides substantive, drug-pricing reforms that can improve the well-being of millions, and I’ll work hard to get it passed quickly.
The proposed legislation ends the current ban that prohibits Medicare from negotiating directly with drug companies and does more to bring those companies to the table to negotiate much-needed drug price reductions. The bill also makes the lower drug prices negotiated by Medicare available to everyone, including the majority of Americans who have private insurance. This reform will lower the costs of prescription drugs for all Americans — not just senior citizens.
American seniors and families shouldn’t have to pay more than what pharmaceutical companies charge people in other countries. This bill would require drug manufacturers to better align their prices with other countries like ours. It would also create a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
These are not radical reforms; instead, this bill shows that drug companies can still be profitable, and be leaders in innovation, all while being held accountable to the American consumers who keep them in business.
Everyone wants affordable, high-quality health care for themselves and their loved ones. And passing this landmark legislation brings us closer to that goal. I urge all my congressional colleagues to come together and commit to lowering drug costs now.
Rep. Carson represents the 7th District of Indiana. He is a Member of the Congressional Black Caucus and one of three Muslims in Congress. Rep. Carson sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, where he is chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation. Contact Rep. Carson at carson.house.gov/contact.