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With Vote for H.R. 3, Rep. Pingree Reaffirms Decades-Long Commitment to Reducing Rx Drug Costs

Washington, December 12, 2019

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today voted for H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The bill allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, limits out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs for seniors, and reinvests savings by establishing significant dental, vision, and hearing benefits within Medicare.

“I don’t know a single person in Maine who hasn’t felt the burden of outrageously high prescription drug prices. No one should have to skip a dosage of life-saving medication while pharmaceutical companies reap enormous profits,” said Pingree. “Big Pharma has been left unchecked for far too long, and it’s well past time we deliver urgent relief to patients. This bill is a fundamental step in that direction and I’m proud to support it – especially since it invests hundreds of billions in savings into making Medicare more comprehensive and affordable. Since my earliest days in the Maine State House and into this Congress, I’ve been fighting to make prescription drugs more affordable, and I’m going to keep fighting until every last Mainer can afford the medications they need.”

Since 1960, the United States has experienced the most rapid and significant drug cost increases in the world. Adjusting for inflation, annual American spending on prescription drugs per person has surged from $90 in 1960 to $1,025 in 2017. Prices for lifesaving drugs that have already been on the market for decades have continued to skyrocket. Insulin is just one shocking example, with prices increasing by 700% over the last 20 years. Prescription drug companies are charging Americans prices that are three, four, or even ten times higher than what they charge for the same drugs in other countries.

H.R. 3 will give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug companies; make the negotiated lower prices available to all Americans, on private insurance or Medicare; stop drug companies from charging Americans more than other countries and limit the maximum price for negotiated drugs; create a $2,000 out of pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries; and reinvest an estimated $456 billion in savings to expand Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing. 

Lowering the cost of prescription drugs is one of Pingree’s signature issues. As Maine Senate Majority Leader in 2000, Pingree sponsored one of the nation's first prescription drug pricing bills, MaineRX. After a legal fight that led all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill became law, and has since been a model for states around the country working to lower prescription drug prices. Pingree has also proposed the CURE High Drug Prices Act and the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act in the 116th Congress, which would address price gouging and prescription drug importation from Canada, respectively.

A recent report from AARP Maine found that one in four Mainers will stop taking prescribed medicine because they cannot afford it. In Maine’s First Congressional District (ME-01), which Pingree represents, there are 117,265 people enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and 511,728 enrolled in private health insurance, all of whom stand to benefit from the passage of H.R. 3. In ME-01, Medicare doesn’t provide coverage for about 75% of beneficiaries’ oral exams, 68% percent of eye exams, and 84% of hearing exams. About 95% of Maine’s Medicare beneficiaries (154,000) stand to gain from adding a dental benefit; 92% (149,000) from adding vision; and 93% (150,000) from hearing.

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