Lower drug costs to transform health care
Dustin Klein holds up a vial of his prescription medication during the Protect Our Care national bus tour stop in Milwaukee on August 20, to promote affordable health care measures in the budget reconciliation bill. When he told the crowd how much his medicine costs, there were audible gasps. | Photo courtesy of Protect Our Care
Every ten days, I need treatment that requires the injection of artificial clotting factors. Since I am a hemophiliac, this treatment could literally mean the difference between life and death. All because I’m missing one of the thirteen proteins that serves as one of the dominos in the “typical” clotting process.
Each treatment requires $18,000 worth of Factor IX. Again, that’s every ten days.
When I held up the tiny vial of Factor during an event in Milwaukee last month and mentioned what each dose costs, there were audible gasps.
Over the course of a year the cost of my medicine adds up to about $670,000 for that one drug alone. Tack on the supplies and doctor visits and my annual care — when I’m healthy -—comes in right around $750,000.
I know I’m not alone. People from all walks of life are struggling to afford the high cost of health care in this country. Far too many are forced to make impossible choices between accessing lifesaving prescription drugs or putting food on the table or paying rent. Millions of people in places like Florida, Texas, Georgia and right here in Wisconsin are locked out of affordable coverage because Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid.
Others are just struggling to afford health care premiums and are delaying or forgoing essential care because of cost. And our nation’s seniors and people with disabilities are still denied vision, dental, and hearing coverage.
In Wisconsin, nearly one in four residents report that they did not fill a prescription due to cost. Polling has shown that 53% of Wisconsinites are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
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That’s why I recently joined the Protect Our Care nationwide bus tour when it rolled into Milwaukee — to demonstrate the urgent need for lowering health costs, expanding coverage, and reducing racial inequities in care.
In the coming weeks, President Biden and members of Congress have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally take action to transform health care for millions of Americans. President Biden and Democrats like Senator Tammy Baldwin are working to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices, close the Medicaid gap so millions of uninsured Americans can gain coverage, expand Medicare benefits to include hearing, dental, and vision, and further reduce premiums for millions of Americans purchasing coverage on their own.
These policies would make a world of a difference for people like me, but also for countless working families, seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color.
Which is why I do not understand how, in the middle of a pandemic, with so many people hurting, and progress right in front of the Congress for the taking, Senator Ron Johnson refuses to even consider voting yes.
As Congress works to pass these measures in upcoming budget reconciliation legislation, it is our job to make our voices heard and support our elected officials who are prioritizing our health care. At the same time, we must hold our elected officials accountable for choosing to stand by Big Pharma and other special interests and reject policies to improve care and lower costs for the American people.
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that health care must be a right, not a privilege. There has never been a more urgent time to lower health care costs and expand coverage, and it’s imperative that Congress enacts these provisions this fall to give us much-needed relief — it’s not only smart policy, it’s the right thing to do.
Giving Senator Johnson a call and urging him to change his mind may seem like a long shot. But that’s the right thing to do, too.
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