WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, 103 unions, faith, health care and other groups sent a letter to congressional leadership and committee chairs, urging them to include popular drug pricing reforms in the upcoming Build Back Better package and use the savings to implement popular Medicare benefit expansions.
The letter’s signees include Public Citizen, SEIU, Communication Workers of America, UAW, Coalition of Labor Union Women, National Union of Healthcare Workers, Protect Our Care, Health Care Voter, Indivisible and Social Security Works. The letter follows a similar letter in April from 48 health advocacy groups.
As lawmakers continue debate on the Build Back Better infrastructure plan, worker and health care advocates, along with 70% of House Democrats, have been pushing Biden and congressional leadership to fulfill their pledge to voters to lower prescription drug prices, improve Medicare coverage for seniors by adding dental, vision and hearing benefits and including an out-of-pocket cap, and lower the eligibility age for Medicare. Robust drug pricing reform would produce upwards of half a trillion dollars in savings over 10 years, and the organizations are calling on Congress to use savings to reinvest in Medicare.
A recent poll from Data for Progress illustrated wide support across party lines for expanding and improving Medicare. The poll found that 86% of Americans, including 82% of Republicans, support adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare. It also found that three-quarters of Democrats, most Independents, and nearly half of Republicans also support lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55.
“For far too long, UAW members and their families have been calling for the ability of the government to directly negotiate drug prices and provide protections for patients in need of affordable prescription drugs,” said Rory L. Gamble, president of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). “UAW families and all Americans are feeling the devastating effects of skyrocketing drug prices on critical medications like insulin, blood pressure medicine and life-saving cancer drugs. The extraordinarily inflated prescription drug costs are hurting families across the country, and UAW members and retirees are no exception. That is why the UAW has long advocated that we work with Congress and now the Biden Administration to include robust government-led drug price negotiation through the American Jobs Plan and invest those savings back into the Medicare program.”
“We have a unique opportunity to finally address the exploding cost of prescription drugs. These rising costs have put necessary and lifesaving treatments out of reach for working families and retirees and bold action is needed,” said Dan Mauer, director of government affairs at the Communication Workers of America (CWA). “Pursuing bold reform will also create substantial savings that can be used to expand Medicare to more seniors and cover important treatments for seniors like vision, hearing and dental care. These are important steps to ensure affordable care for working families and retirees throughout the country.”
“Reducing the cost of medication is a high priority for America’s moms because millions can’t afford the medicines our families need,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising, the online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families. “It’s time for Congress to put our interests ahead of that of the pharmaceutical companies. We need Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices and pass on the savings. Moms would like to see that included in the American Families Plan package. It’s long overdue.”
“President Biden and Congress must include Medicare drug price negotiation in the American Families Plan package,” said Laura Packard, health care voter co-chair and founder of Health Care Voices. “Americans overwhelmingly support expanding the government’s power to lower drug prices. Too many of us cannot afford the drugs we need to stay alive and thrive. We elected Biden and Congress to deliver on expanding health care and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. They must not be held hostage to Big Pharma executives’ search for obscene profits anymore.”
“Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 50, capping out-of-pocket costs, and expanding benefits to include dental, hearing, and vision would improve access to care for millions of Americans. Far too many Americans have lost their insurance or put off needed care due to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Eagan Kemp, health policy advocate for Public Citizen. “The Biden Administration and Congress have a chance to deliver important progress at a crucial time.”