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Senators introduce ‘Lower Costs, More Cures Act’ to tackle prescription drug prices

Measure would lower prescription drug prices while encouraging new cures and treatments for patients

December 19, 2019

Senate health care leaders Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) today introduced the Lower Costs, More Cures Act to lower prescription drug prices, bring greater transparency to the prescription drug industry and encourage American ingenuity in the development of new treatments and cures. 

“America is the leader in biopharmaceutical innovation, bringing life-saving therapies to patients and discovering cures for the future,” Senator Crapo said.  “However, these drugs are only effective if patients can afford them.  President Trump made a commitment to prioritize lowering drug costs, and this legislation will accomplish that.  The Lower Costs, More Cures Act builds on the market-based principles of Medicare Part D to leverage competition, flexibility and transparency to bring affordable drugs to patients.  For the first time, Part D patients will have a maximum out-of-pocket cap to protect them from high costs.  Providers will have access to information to recommend lower-cost alternatives, and Medicare Part B will appropriately pay providers for prescribing the best drug for their patient.  This bill contains provisions that already have broad, bipartisan support.  Congress should act now to pass the Lower Costs, More Cures Act into law.” 

“Lowering drug prices is critical to help ensuring patients can afford the care they need,” Senator Enzi said.  “There are many proposals in Congress focused on lowering the costs of prescription drugs, but our legislation focuses on the solutions with the strongest bipartisan support.  I have long believed that the best way to get good legislation passed is to focus on the 80 percent we agree on and leave out the 20 percent we can’t.  That’s the guiding principle of this legislation and I hope Congress takes it up soon so we can help bring relief from high drug costs to more Americans.”

“With incredible new advances in medicine on the horizon over the next few decades, we have to make sure our payment models are keeping pace and putting people and families first,” Senator Burr said.  “This legislation brings together vetted ideas that both parties support to create a better solution for patients and taxpayers.  It lowers costs for seniors, ensures transparency around price increases and rebates, and allows families to use their health savings accounts for over-the-counter medicines.  It also provides peace of mind for those with diabetes, lowering out-of-pocket costs for insulin in Medicare Part D and high-deductible plans.  I’m proud to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation and look forward to seeing it taken up in the Senate.”

“I’ve been fighting to make sure that North Carolinians have affordable health care with the choices they want and the protections they deserve, which includes having access to prescription drugs they can afford,” Senator Tillis said.  “The Lower Costs, More Cures Act is a commonsense solution that will bring down prescription drug costs for North Carolinians while also ensuring that America continues to be the global leader in innovation and producing life-saving treatments and cures.”

“As a doctor, I am passionate about all patients getting the medications they need.  Too many folks in Wyoming must make hard choices at the grocery store between purchasing food or prescription drugs,” Senator Barrasso said.  “This legislation is a comprehensive approach that will lower costs for patients and maintain America’s leadership in medical innovation.”   

The Lower Costs, More Cures Act, among other things, would:

  • Modernize payments for drugs delivered in the doctor’s office under Medicare Part B;
  • Incentivize lower-cost alternatives, or biosimilars;
  • Establish an annual out-of-pocket cap of $3,100 for Medicare Part D enrollees and allow certain patients to pay in monthly installments;
  • Place an out-of-pocket cap of $50 on insulin and insulin medical supplies;
  • Decrease beneficiary cost sharing from 25 percent to 15 percent of costs before out-of-pocket cap is reached;
  • Allow prescription drug plan sponsors to offer, at minimum, up to four Part D plans per region, spurring competition and innovation;
  • Prevent the upcoming spike in payment for Medicare Part D beneficiaries that reach their annual maximum payment amount;
  • Provide greater flexibility for individuals to use Health Savings Accounts to purchase over-the-counter drugs;
  • Makes permanent the 7.5 percent adjusted gross income for the purposes of the medical expense deduction in the tax filing season;
  • Create a trade negotiator solely dedicated to putting American patients first in government trade negotiations related to medicines in order to prevent foreign free-loading off America’s investment; and
  • Require drug manufacturers to provide pricing information on all direct-to-consumer advertising.

Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives on December 9, 2019.  That bill received bipartisan support when considered by the House of Representatives, and the Administration has called it “a far better approach to lowering drug prices and discovering life-saving cures” than the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Health Care Costs Act. 

Full text of the Senate bill can be found HERE, a section-by-section HERE, and a two-page summary HERE.