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New Jersey Members of Congress Celebrate House Passage of Historic Legislation to Lower Drug Costs

December 16, 2019
Press Release
In New Jersey, the average annual cost of prescription drugs rose nearly 58 percent between 2012 to 2017.

Piscataway, NJ – Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) and Tom Malinkowski (NJ-07) today celebrated  the House of Representatives’ passage last week of landmark legislation that will lower prescription drug prices, add vision, hearing and dental coverage for Medicare beneficiaries for the first time, and invest in critical research to find new cures and treatments. 

The members discussed the impact the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act would have on New Jerseyans, which gives the federal government the ability to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for the American people. The bill also creates a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and reverses years of unfair price hikes above inflation across thousands of drugs in Medicare. Pallone introduced the transformative legislation earlier this year. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one-third of American adults report that they or a family member have not filled a prescription, rationed medication below their prescribed dose, or skipped doses altogether because they could not afford the full cost. In New Jersey, the average annual cost of prescription drugs rose nearly 58 percent between 2012 to 2017. In 2017, 24 percent of New Jersey residents did not take medication as prescribed because of high costs.

“Too many New Jerseyans are forced to choose between putting food on the table for their family and taking a lifesaving drug,” Congressman Pallone said. “The historic Lower Drug Costs Now Act will empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time in the history of the program and makes those prices available to all Americans with insurance. It also caps out-of-pocket costs for seniors at $2,000 per year, and, for the first time, seniors will have access to vision, hearing and dental coverage through Medicare. I’m proud that the House took decisive action to pass this bill last week, and I thank Congressman Payne and Congressman Malinowski for their leadership and support.”

“This bill would vastly improve the health and well-being of millions of Americans,” said Congressman Payne. “It will allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for life-saving medications as well as add dental, vision, and hearing coverage to the Medicare program. In addition, it includes my bill to allow Medicare to cover the cost when cancerous polyps are removed during routine cancer screenings and eliminates the threat of a surprise charge that could cost thousands of dollars. I am proud to stand with my New Jersey colleagues to support this beneficial legislation.”

“Prescription drug costs are out of control for my constituents. No one should be forced to skip dosages or meals to afford their medication,” said Congressman Malinowski. “President Trump campaigned on the common-sense principle that Medicare should be able to negotiate prices on behalf of its millions of beneficiaries, and I hope he keeps his promise, as we did in the House.”

This month, Pallone announced that the Congressional Budget Office anticipates that the bill will save the federal government $500 billion over ten years. The bill’s savings would be reinvested in transformational improvements to Medicare to deliver vision, dental and hearing benefits to Medicare Part B for the first time, including:

  • A new dental benefit that will provide coverage for screening and preventive services, as well as both basic and major treatments. The benefit will also cover one partial or full set of dentures once in a five-year period. 
  • New vision benefits that would cover routine eye exams, contact lens fitting services, and glasses or contact lenses once every two years. An estimated 20.5 million Medicare beneficiaries have vision problems, yet only 57 percent said they had received an eye examination during the previous year. 
  • New hearing benefits that include hearing aid coverage for individuals with severe or profound hearing loss. The bill would also recognize audiologists as practitioners under Medicare and allow qualified audiologists to provide aural rehabilitation and treatment services. 

The bill also bolsters funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), investing over $10 billion with the goal accelerating the search for the next big scientific breakthrough.

“I applaud Representative Pallone for his outstanding work in moving critical health care legislation forward,” said Mayor Brian C. Wahler. “Piscataway seniors as well as elderly residents throughout the country know that much of the people’s business is getting done in the House thanks to leaders like Representative Pallone. H.R. 3 is the keystone bill that if enacted will make a significant change for the better in the lives of present and future Medicare recipients.”

“While pharmaceutical companies make record profits, Americans throughout the country continue to struggle to afford the cost of life-saving prescription drugs. Letting these companies charge whatever they want endangers the health of millions and is a drag on our economy. H.R. 3 is a vital step in both driving down skyrocketing drug costs and making health care more affordable,” said Maura Collinsgru, New Jersey Citizen Action Health Care Program Director. “We thank Congressman Pallone for championing this legislation, our New Jersey Representatives for pushing it through the House, and urge the Senate to take up this cause quickly. No one should struggle to afford the drugs they need to keep themselves and their loved ones alive and healthy.”

“AARP New Jersey applauds Congressman Pallone for his sponsorship of the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019,” said Evelyn Liebman, AARP New Jersey’s Director of Advocacy. “Too many Garden State residents are forced to choose between filling life-saving prescriptions and paying rent, buying food and affording other critical essentials. And prices continue to increase. We also commend Reps. Norcross, Van Drew, Kim, Gottheimer, Malinowski, Sires, Pascrell, Payne, Sherrill and Watson Coleman who supported this important legislation; it’s a bold step toward improving Medicare and lowering prescription drug prices for New Jerseyans and all Americans.”

Pallone spoke about the legislation on the House Floor. Video of his remarks are available here. For more information on the bill’s impact in New Jersey, please visit the summary of drug pricing benefits and Medicare benefits.