Commentary

Prescription drug costs relief awaits Senate action

The drug Biktarvy costs $3,000 a month in the U.S. and $7 a month in India

December 20, 2021 6:00 am
Jar for prescription drugs stuffed with hundred dollar bill representing high cost health care

Photo illustration by Getty Images.

For too long Wisconsinites have had to pay too much to get the prescription drugs that we depend on. We pay three times more for the same medications as people do in other countries, leaving many people having to ration pills or forgo essential medications altogether because of cost. In 2017, more than 20% of state residents reported that they did not fill a prescription due to cost. This is all while big drug and insurance companies keep bringing in record-breaking profits.

The Build Back Better Act works to put an end to these injustices.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which includes measures to lower health care costs for every American. This legislation addresses the broken system that forces millions to choose between putting food on the table or paying rent and affording the medications they need to survive. Notably, not a single Republican member of Congress from Wisconsin voted to lower these costs. Every single Democrat did.

As someone living with HIV I need a drug called Biktarvy.  Biktarvy keeps me healthy and it even makes it impossible to spread HIV.  The retail cost of Biktarvy in America is nearly $3,000 a month, without insurance. In India, the same medication costs $7.00 a month and it is still sold at a profit! American pharmaceutical companies are pricing people out of survival.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have great insurance and other assistance to afford my medication.  Others are not so lucky. As an elected leader here in Viroqua, I see many of the people I represent having to make the choice between medicine and bills all the time. Americans should not be priced out of survival.

Build Back Better addresses prescription drug costs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, caps seniors’ out-of-pocket costs and limits insulin copays to $35 for diabetics. The legislation also extends coverage to millions by closing the Medicaid coverage gap, which drives down premium costs for people like small business owners and farmers purchasing insurance on their own. It also invests $150 billion in home care for seniors and people with disabilities and expands Medicare benefits to include hearing. These measures will level the playing field for working families and reduce stark racial inequities in health care.

Americans should not be priced out of survival.

– Ben Wilson

It’s no surprise that Big Pharma spent more than $250 million in a failed effort to try to stop this legislation. But no matter how many lies they’ve tried to push, the American people have remained unswayed in their support for reform. Reducing drug and health care costs have consistently ranked as top priorities for voters here in Wisconsin and across the country. This is an issue that transcends party lines, with broad support for Medicare negotiation from Democrats, independents and Republicans alike.

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By voting for Build Back Better, Wisconsin Congressional Democrats Ron Kind, Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore voted to put people over profits. However, every single Republican in Congress voted against this plan — standing with Big Pharma and other special interests to protect the status quo and reject reforms that lower costs for the American people.

I know I’m not alone when I say Wisconsinites can’t wait any longer for help with health care and prescription drug costs. This is the most significant expansion of affordable health care in more than a decade. Now, it’s up to the Senate to pass the Build Back Better Act as soon as possible.

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Ben Wilson
Ben Wilson

Ben Wilson is a City Council member in Viroqua, WI and the Driftless Co-Op Organizer with Citizen Action of Wisconsin. He is a dedicated advocate for lower drug prices, universal health care, clean water, and racial and economic justice.

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