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Local

Underwood proposes five-point plan to lower prescription drug costs

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood speaks to the Northwest Herald Editorial Board on Sept. 3 in Crystal Lake.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood speaks to the Northwest Herald Editorial Board on Sept. 3 in Crystal Lake.

Sandy Webber, treasurer of the city of Sandwich, said high prescription drug prices have deeply affected her family over the years.

Webber said her late husband was diagnosed with diabetes in his 20s and was on seven or eight medications to control his blood sugar by his mid-40s. Her husband ultimately lost a battle with cancer in 2016.

Since then, Webber said her daughter has struggled with depression and has been on medication for four years. One of the drugs on the market Webber found cost $400 a month.

“I can’t pretend to pay it anymore,” Webber said.

In response to Webber’s story and similar ones she has heard all across the 14th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, unveiled a five-point plan Friday to reduce the overbearing costs of prescription medication in the country.

Underwood said the proposal is not only aimed at uninsured individuals or those whose coverage has lapsed, but also at middle-class families with good health insurance plans.

“We all know the impact these prices have,” Underwood said. “They can break the bank of families of all income levels.”

The first part of Underwood’s plan is to cap Medicare out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 annually. Underwood said Americans with private insurance coverage also would see real savings from eliminating out-of-pocket costs for common medications such as insulin and inhalers

The second step would be to allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for the most expensive drugs and insulin. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that negotiations could lower prices by 55%, saving Medicare about $345 billion between 2023 and 2029.

Third, pharmaceutical companies would be required to publicly report and justify any increases to prescription drug prices. New enforcement authorities then could penalize drug companies that fail to justify any raised prices by paying extra money to the purchaser.

President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union speech that drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals should be required to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring down costs.

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place,” Trump said during his speech. “This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it.”

The fourth step of Underwood’s plan would be to close loopholes that prevent consumers from gaining access to more affordable generic medications.

Finally, Underwood proposes restoring full federal funding for biomedical research over the next 10 years to work toward creating breakthrough treatments and lifesaving cures.

Underwood said she recently met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who advised her that nothing was off the table when it came to solving the prescription drug affordability crisis, and Trump is committed to taking action.

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