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Tonko Votes on Landmark Bill to Lower Drug Costs

H.R. 3 would significantly lower prescription drug costs while supporting historic new investments in Medicare

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Washington, December 12, 2019 | comments

WASHINGTON – Congressman Paul D. Tonko voted today to advance H.R. 3, The Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would address the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs in the United States. This landmark legislation passed the House by a vote of 230-192. The bill would give Medicare the power to directly negotiate prices with drug companies, which they are currently prohibited from doing. The resulting savings would be reinvested into the Medicare program by creating a $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on drug spending and adding new benefits for dental, vision, and hearing care.

“For far too long, Americans have struggled to pay for their prescription drugs,” Congressman Tonko said. “The Lower Drug Costs Now Act puts an end to this unsustainable trend and ensures patients are put first. What’s more, the billions saved allow for historic investments in dental care coverage, along with research to find cures of harmful diseases at NIH. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the House in support of this vital legislation that will save Americans thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.”

The Lower Drug Costs Now Act includes two pieces of legislation championed by Congressman Tonko, the Star Ratings for Biosimilars Act and the Advancing Enrollment and Reducing Drug Costs Act. H.R. 4629, Star Rating for Biosimilars Act, would evaluate Medicare drug plans based on whether generic, cost-effective biosimilars are available to enrollees. H.R. 4661, the Advancing Enrollment and Reducing Drug Costs Act, would help low-income seniors cut through red tape by automatically enrolling individuals who aged out of Medicaid Expansion and into Medicare low-income subsidies.

The savings generated as a result of H.R. 3 would allow for the most significant reinvestment into the Medicare program in a generation as well as billions in new investments to protect our public health, including:

  • Establishing a $2,000 annual cap on out-of-pocket drug spending for Medicare beneficiaries;
  • Adding dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare for the first time;
  • Investing $10 billion in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help develop new cures and treatments; and
  • Investing $10 billion in our nation’s response to the opioid epidemic, helping to fund more prevention, treatment and recovery programs.

In NY-20 alone, 112,897 people are enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan and 472,331 people are enrolled in private health insurance; all of whom stand to gain from the passage of H.R. 3. In particular, those living with diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma, HIV/AIDS and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are expected to experience significant savings.

  • Patients living with diabetes: More than 30 million people in the U.S. are living with diabetes, including 1,633,786 people in New York. Under H.R. 3, the average total cost of the insulin NovoLOG Flexpen could be cut by 76 percent, from about $19,800 to $4,800 per year, and other commonly used insulins could cost as little as $400 per year.

Expansion of Medicare coverage for dental, vision, and hearing services will benefit hundreds of thousands in NY-20.

  • About 99% of beneficiaries (142,300 people) stand to gain from adding a dental benefit.
  • About 79% of beneficiaries (113,800 people) stand to gain from adding a vision benefit.
  • About 92% of beneficiaries (132,900 people) stand to gain from adding a hearing benefit.

The bill now moves to the United States Senate, where it awaits further action.

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