Opinion: A game-changer for seniors and all Pennsylvanians

susan wild

Congresswoman Susan Wild speaking at the grand opening of a TSA security checkpoint at the Lehigh Valley International Airport on July 28, 2023 (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Susan Wild

April 11, 2024

In this op-ed, Congresswoman Susan Wild highlights the transformative impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on healthcare for seniors and all Pennsylvanians.

Around fourteen years ago, then-President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. For a long time, this groundbreaking accomplishment in the fight for more accessible health care stood alone, as many tried and failed to improve it, attack it, or even do away with it completely.

For decades, whether they have been running for Senate, the House, or president, politicians have been telling Pennsylvanians that they will make our healthcare system better. One of the most common refrains was lowering the price of prescription drugs. But with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year, we actually got it done. We ended the decades of empty rhetoric from politicians and delivered on the promise of more affordable medicines.

We stood up to Big Pharma … and won, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbyists, propaganda and threats that drug corporations deployed to try to stop progress on prescription drug affordability.

After decades of price-gouging, the historic law ends drug corporations’ monopoly control over the prices of some of the most expensive and most used drugs in Medicare Part D by enabling Medicare to negotiate for lower prices and capping out-of-pocket costs on prescriptions—including capping the price of insulin at $35 a month. The law also requires drug corporations that raise their prices faster than inflation to pay rebates back to Medicare for the overcharge.

These are real-world benefits for people here in Pennsylvania and across the country. And starting earlier this year – in January – a new phase of the law kicked in bringing even greater relief for seniors on Medicare Part D.

In September, the president announced the first 10 medications whose prices Medicare will negotiate. They are some of the most widely used and expensive medications in Part D, some with prices that have doubled since their introduction into the market.

With over 2.8 million Pennsylvania seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare— over 20% of the population of our state—Pennsylvanians will soon see big savings from the law.

And one of the biggest impacts of the law will be those who require insulin.

Take, for example, Tony Branco, a retired municipal manager from Lehigh County. Tony has a hybrid Type 1 and 2 diabetes, and because of that need, he uses insulin that is five times stronger than the normal dose. Even with his health care coverage before the Inflation Reduction Act benefit of the insulin cap went into effect, he was spending over $250/month. Now, because of the bill, he is set to save thousands of dollars this year, which he’ll be able to put towards other needs. For Tony, this new benefit is a gamechanger.

And Tony is not alone. More than 154,000 Pennsylvania Medicare beneficiaries used insulin in 2020 and paid an average of $54 per prescription that yearover 50% more than the new $35 monthly copay cap for insulin. Many patients spent even more as the price of insulin continued to sky-rocket over the last decade. The cost per prescription for insulin increased 39% in Medicare between 2007 and 2020.

That security this law provides is critical given the pattern of unpredictable price increases in insulin over the years that have left millions of people in the lurch annually—particularly low-wage workers and people on fixed incomes who can’t keep up with soaring prices for basic medicines like insulin.

Drug corporations have raised the price of medicines faster than inflation routinely over the last decade. In fact, drug corporations like the ones now suing to stop Medicare negotiations have raised the price of half of all drugs covered by Medicare by rates that exceeded inflation between 2019 and 2020.

The new law also limits what people in Medicare Part D can be forced to pay out of pocket for all prescription drugs to $2,000 annually—no matter how much drug companies raise prices. That means the more than 73,000 Pennsylvanians who pay more than that will see much needed relief. Millions of Medicare Part D enrollees will no longer face the prospect of paying unlimited amounts for medicines they need.

And it is not just people on Medicare who benefit from this new law. Taxpayers will save $160 billion over the next decade from negotiated prices in Medicare. Those savings are reinvested in lowering health costs for millions of Americans who buy private coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, saving ACA enrollees an average of $800 a year in premiums, including 346,000 people in Pennsylvania. Among those who benefit in our state are 79,000 small-business owners who are a major driver of the economy in our state.

And the new law doesn’t just make healthcare more affordable, it also lowers household energy costs by an average of $500 a year while reducing carbon emissions, cleaning up pollution, and creating good-paying jobs in upgrading manufacturing. It pays for these investments with a minimum corporate tax so that the nation’s largest corporations making over $1 billion annually finally pay more of their fair share to support the economy that is driving their profits. The law does all of this while not raising taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year and enforcing taxes on millionaires and billionaires who use loopholes to dodge paying what they owe.

In short, this new law is a game-changer for seniors and all Pennsylanians. I was proud to not only support it but help ensure it was passed into law.

RELATED: Prescription drugs are getting cheaper for seniors thanks to Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act

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