U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand discussed her legislation, the Stop Price Gouging Act, during an appearance Friday afternoon at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown.
She said the legislation would drive down prescription drug prices, ensure access to affordable medications for New York seniors and penalize drug companies that raise prices of medication without justification,
Assemblywoman Jenne said the legislation introduced by Senator Gillibrand would benefit North Country families and health care institutions.
"We've heard how the high cost of prescriptions are putting our seniors in a crunch. It's pay for their prescriptions or pay for heat, pay to put food on their table, things like that," the assemblywoman said.
"But it also impacts their ability to pay their property taxes and not lose their home or have to leave their home strictly because they have to make those decisions," she added.
"We're talking about people having to get thousands of dollars for their prescriptions. It's not just our seniors. It's our working families as well. We can and must do better than that," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She said she hears too often about young couples that decide to start a family and then are hit with high prescription costs for the expecting mom's health care needs.
"Suddenly what should be one of the most joyous parts of life becomes a time of great anxiety because of the cost of those medications," the mother of two noted.
"The senator is proposing common sense measures, measures we all ought to be able to get behind. We know that prescriptions save us money in the long run and save lives," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She said prescriptions can also nip a condition in the bud, preventing much higher health care costs down the road.
"We know making medications affordable will save us a lot of money in the long run," she reiterated.
"I'm happy Senator Gillibrand is fighting for this and working in a bipartisan way to get common sense legislation done that we can all support," Assemblywoman Jenne stressed.
"I couldn't be more proud to stand here as she tries to tackle one of the most important issues North Country families face," she added.
Under current law, according to Senator Gillibrand, pharmaceutical companies can raise the price of their medication at any time with no justification.
There is no mechanism to prevent a manufacturer from spiking the price of its drugs year after year, and pharmaceutical corporations are not required to report the increases in the price of their drugs to the public.
In January 2017, median prices for prescription medications increased by an average of nearly 9 percent, about four times higher than the overall inflation rate, forcing many seniors living on a fixed income to consider going without their medication.
Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would penalize pharmaceutical companies that engage in price gouging without cause, leading to price spikes for patients who rely on medication to treat diseases ranging from cancer to opioid addiction.
The Stop Price Gouging Act would:
• Require pharmaceutical corporations to report any increases in the price of their products, as well as justification for any increases that exceed medical inflation, to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General, as well as to the public;
• Impose a tax penalty on corporations that engage in excessive, unjustified price increases that are proportional to the size of the price spike;
• Instruct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study examining how drug manufacturers establish initial launch prices and suggest best practices for monitoring new drug pricing; and
• Reinvest penalties collected from companies in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Senator Gillibrand is also pushing for Congress to act now to pass four other bills she has cosponsored that would help increase access and affordability of medications for seniors.
She is a cosponsor of the Capping Prescription Cost Act, which would ensure that individuals and families with high prescription drug costs are protected and can access necessary medications.
This legislation would cap monthly co-pays in private insurance plans for prescription drugs at $250 per person and $500 per family.
The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act would tackle the issue of rising drug costs in the U.S. in four key areas: transparency, access and affordability, innovation, and choice and competition.
The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2017 would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices in Medicare.
The Affordable Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations for allowing wholesalers, licensed U.S. pharmacies, and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs manufactured at FDA-inspected facilities from licensed Canadian sellers and licensed sellers in other countries.
Samaritan Medical Center President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Carman and Jefferson County Office for the Aging Director Timothy Reutten also shared their support for the effort to control the costs of prescription medications.
IN THE TOP PHOTO:
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, speaking Friday at Samaritan Medical Center, said legislation proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to control the cost of prescription medications would help North Country seniors and families struggling with the high cost of health care. Pictured are (l-r): Thomas Carman, president and chief executive officer of Samaritan Medical Center; Timothy Ruetten, director, Jefferson County Office for the Aging; Assemblywoman Jenne and Senator Gillibrand.