Here’s Why 1 Million Wisconsin Seniors Will Soon See Lower Drug Costs

Pile of prescription drug bottles

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By Pat Kreitlow

July 14, 2023

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act included a measure allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies in order to reduce the cost of prescriptions for Part D beneficiaries.

Medicare will soon be able to flex its bulk-buying muscle when negotiating prices with drug manufacturers, due to a measure in President Biden’s  Inflation Reduction Act that will lower health care costs for millions of Americans.

The nation’s health insurance program for seniors did not originally have a prescription drug benefit, so the Part D prescription drug program was added in 2003—but only after Republicans in Congress added language preventing Medicare from negotiating better prices. Approximately 1.1 million Medicare recipients in Wisconsin have some form of Medicare drug coverage, according to government figures

With the ban being lifted thanks to the  Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare is preparing to release the list of the first 10 drugs selected for the first round of price negotiations. 

“You deserve the benefits of Medicare, which are just awesome,” US Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) told participants in a recent media event to promote the change. “And under the Inflation Reduction Act, not only are we bringing down the cost of insulin, but other drugs and copays. One of the things I love about this legislation is that no matter what, [costs] will be capped at $2,000 a year. So that cost won’t be a social determinant of health.”

Protect Our Care, an advocacy group that promotes and defends the Affordable Care Act, released a report predicting that five of the drugs on that first list will be AbbVie’s Imbruvica, Amgen’s Enbrel, Johnson &Johnson’s Xarelto, Merck’s Januvia, and Pfizer’s lbrance. In 2021 alone, the federal government spent $16.7 billion on those five drugs.

“Not only does the Inflation Reduction Act provide affordable medications to people,” Moore said, “but it actually reduces the deficit by billions, hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Moore also noted that the Inflation Reduction Act passed Congress without a single Republican vote.

“All the time they’re always talking about needing to reduce the deficit and talking about inflation,” Moore said. “So this bill deals with not only inflation, but it also deals with access to drugs. And it reduces our federal deficit. So I think that this is something to celebrate.”

The media event, organized by Protect Our Care and Opportunity Wisconsin, also included remarks from two Milwaukee-area retirees about the impact of having their prescription drug costs lowered. Only their first names were provided.

WATCH: UpNorthNews Radio interview segment on this story on our YouTube channel

Lewis—who expressed his frustration at trying to navigate the healthcare system with conditions that leave him in constant pain—was asked what he would say to congressional Republicans who opposed the Inflation Reduction Act.

“I would say to them, ‘how would you feel if you was in the shape I was in?’ Don’t get as much money that you got? I worked over 40 years on one job. I just couldn’t go back to work because of my knee and knee replacement.”

Ricky talked about how his wife needed eight prescriptions after a recent surgery.

“I think the government should stop working for these big pharmaceutical companies and work for the little men like me and Lewis, so that we can all live.”

Author

  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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