Advocates Share Health Care Stories, 25 Arizona Organizations Deliver Letter to Sen. Sinema, Urging Medicare Expansion in Build Back Better Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Health providers, patients, and activists today shared health care stories and delivered a letter signed by Public Citizen and 25 Arizona organizations to U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) urging her to support robust Medicare drug price negotiation and benefits expansion in the Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill. 

“A broad coalition of Arizona organizations calling on Sen. Sinema to be a champion of these reforms mirrors the national movement in favor of these common sense and popular reforms,” said Melinda St. Louis, director of Public Citizen’s Medicare for All campaign. “Sen. Sinema must stop obstructing President Biden and his Build Back Better plan, in order to provide Americans access to medicines and life-saving health care coverage and fulfill Democrats’ campaign promises.” 

Public Policy Polling recently found that 73% of Arizona voters say they support giving Medicare the power to lower prescription drug prices for all Americans. Additionally, 79% support using savings from lower drug prices to provide health care benefits for hearing, dental, and vision to seniors on Medicare, and lower insurance premiums. Lowering Medicare to age 60 would provide quality insurance to 439,000 Arizonans between 60 and 65 and 20 million other Americans.

The letters delivered follow a letter from 100+ national groups that called on congressional leadership to include Medicare drug price negotiation and expansion in the package, as well as organizational letters to other U.S. senators urging their support of these policies. Sinema, who has received more than $750,000 in donations from Big Pharma and medical firms throughout her career, remains a key holdout on drug price negotiation. 

The U.S. spends far more than any other country for pharmaceuticals, and the largest purchaser in the world is the Medicare Part D program. Granting Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices and push back against Big Pharma company profiteering would mean an end to decades of overpaying for medicines and yield hundreds of billions in cost-savings that could be used to improve and expand health care coverage. It is estimated we could save upward of $450 billion over 10 years; this money could address other needs of Medicare enrollees. In short, bold drug pricing reform would support a healthier America. 

“The American people have been getting ripped off by drug companies for decades,” said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director for the Arizona Department of Health Services. “In a way, it’s our own fault because our elected representatives in Congress continue to prohibit Medicare from negotiating with the drug companies. A simple market-based solution is finally at our doorstep. All we need is for Sen. Sinema to open the door and do the right thing, let Medicare finally negotiate. Now.”

“Sen. Sinema seems to have forgotten since her days as an NLG member that all legitimate law comes from the people, not pharmaceutical companies,” said Dianne Post, attorney with the Central Arizona National Lawyers Guild.

“The Medicare Expansion would improve the overall health of seniors, avoid thousands of medical bankruptcies and prevent countless avoidable deaths,” said Ken Kenegos, RN, chair of the AZ Medicare for All Coalition. “The pandemic has devastated millions of American families while the large corporations have had a 70% increase in their profits and Senator Sinema choses to protect their interests, not those of the American people.”

“In 2018 Sen. Sinema promised lower drug prices if elected. Now she is adamantly against allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. What changed? I’d suggest the hundreds of thousands of dollars of big-pharma money she is receiving,” said Mik Jordahl, vice chair of the Arizona Democratic Party Progresssive Council.

“Drug price negotiation is critical to so many Arizonans,” said Patti Serrano, chair of PDA Arizona – Phoenix/East Valley. “It means providing some breathing room for those rationing and postponing needed medication and care due to our current unaffordable costs. It means the dignity of parents like mine; their ability to clearly see their grandchildren behind covered prescription eyeglasses and an ability to enjoy a full meal with covered dental care. It would be immoral to turn a thumbs down on millions by not supporting an expansion and improvements on Medicare. These are the real needs and demands of so many Arizonans who elected our Senior Senator to deliver on promises, support the President’s agenda and improve the lives of Arizonans in a meaningful way.”

Read the full letter here.