Grassley, Braun op-ed: Our way of life depends on affordable, 21st century cures
May 14, 2020
By Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mike Braun of Indiana
When it comes to treatments and lifesaving cures, the U.S. healthcare system is second to none. This is why, when a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, or a parent is told her child has diabetes, we can bear such unsettling news with a sense of hope.
However, we constantly hear from constituents who are struggling to afford their prescription medicines. The current drug pricing regime is leaving too many people behind.
The coronavirus pandemic lends even more urgency to our efforts to ensure lifesaving cures are affordable.
Lifesaving pharmaceutical medicines won’t do a bit of good if people cannot afford them. One in four patients say they have difficulty paying for their prescription medicine. High-cost specialty drugs pose an even greater burden to patients and to the public purse.
For tens of millions of people in the United States, pharmaceutical medicine is their lifeline, allowing them to engage in and enjoy daily life. We need to keep the pathways to pharmaceutical innovation open at sustainable prices for patients and taxpayers. The search for coronavirus diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines has launched impressive collaboration among pharmaceutical companies. It’s a golden opportunity for lawmakers to ensure the pricing regime achieves the "Goldilocks standard" — one that fits “just right” with free market principles and serves the public good, driving innovation and prosperity while also guaranteeing price stability and sustainability.
Government guarantees have allowed Big Pharma to charge whatever it wants, allowing the drug industry to milk taxpayers for all they’re worth. That’s not a free market — it’s corporate welfare, and it has propped up drug prices for government and the individual consumer for too long.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 30% of patients fail to take medications as prescribed because of the cost. Polls consistently report overwhelming, bipartisan support from the U.S. electorate for government action to lower prescription drug costs. When voters see eye to eye on an issue, lawmakers need to take notice and take action.
As Republican lawmakers who represent the heartland of America, we strongly support our system of free enterprise. It has incubated scientific innovation and miracle cures that have wiped diseases off the face of the Earth. Treatments give a new lease on life to patients who are fighting cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, and countless chronic conditions.
Indeed, a pharmaceutical breakthrough is what America needs now more than ever. The coronavirus pandemic underscores the vital contribution pharmaceutical sciences have for the nation’s public health, economic prosperity, and way of life. It also confirms that we need a policy cure to treat soaring prescription drug prices.
Unlike those who want to impose socialism, we know a government takeover of the U.S. healthcare system is the wrong answer. From the birth of our republic to 2020, the tide that lifts all boats is the promise of prosperity.
America’s entrepreneurial voyage has worked because competition and profitability help deliver high-quality goods and services at the best value for consumers. Free enterprise is the North Star of the U.S. economy. Although the compass guiding the nation’s drug pricing marketplace has veered off course, we have a bipartisan solution to steer it in the right direction.
Our Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act is the right diagnosis to help cure unaffordable drug prices that put taxpayers on the hook and force patients to skip or ration their medication.
During his State of the Union address, President Trump told Congress he’s ready to sign a bill that would reduce drug prices for people “the right way.” Our bipartisan bill would do just that. It is fiscally responsible and upholds free market principles.
Here’s what it would do:
- Save taxpayers more than $80 billion by ending handouts to Big Pharma and restoring free market incentives to the drug industry;
- Help patients by reducing out-of-pocket costs by $50 billion and keeping premiums stable;
- Fix spread pricing and other schemes that exploit the drug supply chain; and
- Improve transparency and competition.
Let’s not forget that Big Pharma hitched its wagon to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It wants to keep unlimited government subsidies as far as the eye can see. The jig’s up. Let’s pass meaningful reforms that improve transparency, reduce out-of-pocket costs, and as Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee, “Leave plenty of room for profit-margin innovation and investment.”
The American people want the best medical cures at prices they can afford to pay. We’ve got a winning legislative solution. Let’s get it to the president’s desk without delay. It will help secure our American way of life in a post-pandemic world for generations to come.
Chuck Grassley is Iowa's senior U.S. senator and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Mike Braun is Indiana's junior U.S. Senator. Both are Republicans.