November 4, 2021 — The fight over allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and use the savings to expand guaranteed dental, hearing and vision benefits, is continuing on Capitol Hill.
Executives from 33 pharmaceutical corporations sent a letter to Congress reiterating their opposition to allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. The letter contained numerous falsehoods about the potential effect of Medicare drug price negotiations and asked Congress to block any legislation that would weaken the industry’s monopoly power to set prices.
In response, Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, a bipartisan organization fighting for lower drug prices, released new data showing that big pharma CEOs were collectively paid $400 million in 2020. The average compensation for the CEOs was $12.5 million, 185 times the average American household income — and 420 times the income of Medicare beneficiaries.
The report also shows that 19 of the 33 companies that wrote to Congress are based in foreign countries, where they charge less than half what they charge Americans for the same drugs.
“Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and these CEOs are fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “We are doing everything we can to defeat these corporations and get this common sense solution into law. President Biden has made this a priority, and Congress needs to deliver this for the American people.”
Extreme wealth inequality at all ages is tied to retirement struggles for many Americans. Researchers with the National Institute on Retirement Security have found stark wealth inequality among members of the Baby Boom generation, which they defined as Americans aged 55-73.
The entire bottom half of Baby Boomers held only 2 percent of their generation’s wealth in 2019, threatening the retirement security of millions of Americans who are at or close to retirement age. Comparable levels of inequality were found among younger demographics, including “Gen X,” aged 39-54, and Millennials, aged 23-38.
When broken down by racial and ethnic groups, white Baby Boomers held 91 percent of the financial assets for their age group, with Blacks and Hispanics owning only a sliver of the total.
Financial asset ownership, including 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts and other forms of investment, is especially important to retirement security because so many workers are expected to generate their own personal retirement savings as pensions become less common.
“Wealth inequality hurts Americans of all ages, and is particularly dangerous for older people,” said Joseph Peters Jr., secretary-treasurer of the Alliance. “We need to expand Social Security and increase benefits, since it is clear that more and more Americans will need to rely on it for the majority of their retirement income.”
Kaiser Health News reports: An ad’s charge that price haggling would ‘swipe $500 billion from Medicare’ is incorrect. The advertisement opens with a doctor sitting across from his patient and holding a prescription drug pill bottle. “You want to continue with this medication?” the doctor asks while an older patient nods. The doctor then explains that he can no longer provide the medicine to her because insurance companies and Washington bureaucrats “are working together to swipe $500 billion from Medicare. “They’re calling it Medicare negotiation, but, really, it’s just a way to cut your benefits and no longer pay for lifesaving medicines,” the doctor says.
Medicare negotiation refers to the federal government bargaining directly with pharmaceutical companies on the price of prescription drugs. Currently, Medicare is prohibited from using its vast market-share muscle to set prices. But supporters of Medicare drug negotiations eye the Democratic-backed budget reconciliation bill now being discussed in Congress as a means to reverse the policy.
The ad, seen on television and online, is part of a multiplatform campaign by the 60 Plus American Association of Senior Citizens, a conservative group that lobbies on senior issues, and brands itself as the “right alternative to AARP.” It’s one example of a swath of ads that have popped up in the past month about Medicare drug-price negotiations.
Since drug pricing is a hot topic and a critical piece of the broad, politically charged debate in Congress. The ad’s message is misleading and designed to maintain high drug prices and pharmaceutical profits.
The part D Medicare legislation which prohibits Medicare from negotiating the price they pay for prescription drugs was written by pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and signed into law by former President George W. Bush.