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Pallone Praises House Passage of Lower Drug Costs Now Act

December 12, 2019
Press Release
Historic Legislation Empowers Federal Government to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices and Makes Transformational Improvements to Medicare

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) applauded House passage of his legislation, H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, that would lower the cost of prescription drugs. On Monday, December 16 at 11 AM, Pallone and members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation will hold a press conference at the Piscataway Senior Center to update the public on the bill’s impact.

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.

“Today, Democrats followed through on our promise to the American people to make prescription drugs more affordable. 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. The bill also reverses years of unfair price hikes and caps seniors’ out-of-pocket costs on prescription medications at $2,000 per year. This legislation will dramatically rein in costs and puts an end to the price gouging that’s been taking place at the pharmacy counter for years,” Pallone said.

“We then take the savings and reinvest it back into the American people with the most transformative improvements to Medicare since the program’s creation. Under H.R. 3, seniors will have access to vision, hearing and dental coverage through Medicare for the first time. We also invest in critical research to find new cures and treatments, as well as providing much-needed funding to combat the opioid crisis.  

“The American people are fed up with paying three, four or ten times more than people in other countries for the exact same drug. I’m proud that the House took decisive action today to finally level the playing field and provide real relief to the American people. I now hope Senator McConnell will follow through on President Trump’s repeated promises to ‘negotiate like crazy’ and take up this bill. We cannot afford to wait. It’s time to negotiate a better deal for the American people,” Pallone concluded.   

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.

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