Rising costs of prescription drugs are starting to be a hot-button issue for the upcoming 2016 presidential election. The most outspoken candidates on the issue thus far have been Democrats, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.This month, Mr. Sanders introduced a bill in Congress outlining an array of policy changes that would ultimately drive down drug costs for patients. Mrs. Clinton took a more subtle approach and tweeted that her plan would be released this week.
So why are prescription drugs soaring to the top of the Democratic health care agenda? Because drug prices are rising at exorbitant rates. Per capita, drug spending increased by more than $100 last year - quite the leap. Even generic drugs like Daraprim, that helps treat a life-threatening parasitic infection, jumped from $13.50 to $750 overnight this week. Americans spend roughly double the amount on drugs compared to many developed countries. Concurrently, a growing number of Americans are being asked to foot the bill – even if they are not insured.
Voters have taken notice. A survey conducted from the Kaiser Family Foundation asked people to identify health issues they deemed top priority for the President and Congress to tackle. The number one issue was making drugs for serious diseases affordable. Number two? Lowering the cost of prescription drugs. The survey also found that 24 percent of people said that they or a family member had to decline filling a prescription because the cost was too high for them and they couldn’t afford it.
Are you wondering how the Democratic candidates plan to fix this discrepancy? First is allowing Americans to import drugs from Canada where costs are much cheaper. This would also allow the Medicare program to negotiate with drug makers – something they currently can’t do compared to private insurance entities. Both Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton have expressed shifting to a system where Medicare negotiates as a sort of monolith.
Mr. Sanders plans to catalyze more transparency for research and developmental costs along with steeper fines for pharmaceutical companies that commit fraud. Clinton’s plan requires drug companies to spend a set percentage of their revenue on research and development. As a consequence, this would put a cap on the amount insurance companies could ask customers to pay to only $250 per month for their medications. Let me translate all of this - big savings for you and me.
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