Alex Azar of the New York Post recently wrote “President Trump has exposed the dirty secret of drug pricing: There is a shadowy third player in the transaction between patients and their pharmacists: middlemen who have taken a big kickback from the drug manufacturer, which may or may not be reflected in patients’ out-of-pocket costs.
“As Americans heard Tuesday in the State of the Union Address, the president is committed to improving fairness and transparency in health care. These back-door deals in health care undermine his vision for drug pricing and are completely unacceptable.
“We have already gotten started. Last week, the Trump administration proposed what could be the single biggest change to the way Americans’ drugs are priced at the pharmacy counter, ever. Under the president’s plan, the current system of kickbacks to middlemen would be replaced with transparent, up-front discounts, delivered directly to patients.”
He goes on to say “There are other benefits to bringing this new transparency to drug markets. As it is, drug companies regularly raise prices on many medications, because the higher prices allow them to make larger kickback payments, in the form of rebates, to the drug plans that decide which drugs are covered by insurance.
“Without these kickbacks, the single biggest incentive to raise prices every year will be eliminated, and prices can come down. Eliminating today’s kickbacks will also open up more choice and competition for patients. Today, kickbacks are used by drug companies to ward off competition, depriving patients of options they may have never known about.”
In that same effort to lower drug prices, GOP and Democrat members of the House are working together to find areas of agreement in this area.
Today, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) released the following statement ahead of a Full Committee Hearing on The Cost of Rising Prescription Drug Prices:
“We agree that the time is now to take meaningful action to lower the cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. health care system. Consumers, taxpayers, employers, and our public programs like Medicare and Medicaid are all bearing the burden of years of high prices, unsustainable price increases, lack of transparency, and incentives in our government programs that too often reward high prices. We are committed to working together to end this cycle while preserving access to life-saving innovations.”
Brady went on to deliver the following opening statement at a Full Committee Hearing on The Cost of Rising Prescription Drug Prices.
CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.
“Thank you, Chairman Neal, for calling this hearing today.
“This is our second Committee hearing this Congress dedicated to health care, and we Republicans welcome that.
“It has been a decade since Democrats rewrote the laws for one-sixth of the economy, and health care still remains the number one worry for our families and workers across the country.
“And as we all know, it is the rising out-of-pocket health care costs that frustrate individuals and local businesses.
“High premiums, skyrocketing deductibles, and less power over health care bills haunt middle-class families and workers.
“Medicaid is putting tremendous financial pressure on our states. And Medicare – this important program that provides health care to 50 million Americans – is going broke sooner than expected.
“The status quo is failing. We must do better.
“Our focus today is on getting the cost of prescription drug prices down.
“I’m pleased our Democratic colleagues are willing to work together with Republicans in Congress and the Administration on this issue.
“Republicans on this Committee believe Congress must work together to lower out-of-pocket health care costs for Americans.
“We can do so by cracking down on overpriced drugs, empowering patients to choose the most affordable medicines for them, and eliminating the incentives in Medicare that reward bad actors and lead to higher prices.
“We’ve all heard horror stories of someone going to their pharmacy on their way home from work and, all of a sudden, it seems like the price tag for their drug jumped overnight.
“Why is this happening? What is broken in the government-regulated market for medicine that allows for these seemingly annual price hikes on products, many of which have been available for years?
“I’m hopeful that our witnesses today can give us an answer, and offer proposals of policies we should consider to remedy these frustrating problems.
“Health care and drug prices are too big of an issue to go at it alone, we must collaborate to drive these costs down.
“This Congress, let’s work together, as Republicans and Democrats, to lower drug prices.
“We stand ready to work together on a bipartisan basis to do so. But one thing needs to be stated clearly as we start this work.
“To protect the hope of future medical breakthroughs, Republicans reject Washington price controls that limit American’s access to life-saving medicines that many families are counting on.
“When Washington ‘negotiates’ in government-run health care programs, taxpayers end up bearing the costs while Americans can be denied access to the most innovative, breakthrough medicines available to others in the private market.
“We must avoid policies that jeopardize the valuable innovation of our researchers, pharmacists, and medical professionals.
“We must get the incentives right to lower costs while we accelerate new advances in medicines.
“And we must give patients much more power to choose the care and the medicines right for them, not what’s right for Washington.
“Medicare Part B and Part D are due for needed reforms, and we want to work together to bring those bipartisan reforms across the finish line.
“The best reforms we can implement are ones that will truly empower patients.
“Ones that can unleash the same market forces that have found a way to reward the companies that have innovated the technologies in my cell phone, but ensure its price is lower year-over-year.
“And while I know a small fraction of the far-left are demanding that Democrats push through government control of every aspect of Americans’ lives, Republicans ask that you instead work with us to tackle these problems.
“Republicans want to push for solutions that work for patients, and we want to work with all our colleagues on the other side of the dais to lower health care costs.
“Today, let’s show the American people we’re ready to do that.”