An America First drug pricing plan | Sen. Rick Scott

May 21, 2019

Sun Sentinel
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
May 21, 2019

Let’s think about this for a second. Pharmaceutical companies charge low prices for prescription drugs in Canada, Europe, and Japan. At the same time, they charge American consumers significantly more. Why? Because politicians have let them for far too long.

I recently met Sheldon Armus, who has Type-2 Diabetes. The price of his insulin went from $60 a month to more than $300 a month in a short period of time.

His story is not uncommon. All over the state, I hear the same thing: “Drug prices are rising, and we’re having trouble affording the life-saving medication we need.”

Americans consumers – patients all across Florida relying on these life-saving drugs – are subsidizing the cost of prescription drugs in Europe and Canada and all over the world. Why should we do that? That’s certainly not putting America first. And that’s why I am working President Trump and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to fix this problem.

I recently introduced the America First Drug Pricing Plan. Here’s what it does.

Part one of my bill focuses on transparency. First, pharmacies MUST inform patients what it would cost to purchase drugs out-of-pocket instead of using their insurance and co-pay. If patients choose to pay out-of-pocket (which is often cheaper), the total cost would be applied to their deductible.

Second, insurance companies MUST inform patients of the total costs of their prescription drugs 60 days prior to open enrollment. This will allow patients to be consumers and shop around for the best deal. Once those costs are set, they cannot be changed for a full 12 months. Patients – particularly seniors living on a fixed income – need to have confidence that their drug costs won’t suddenly increase.

I remember asking my mom how much lower drug costs would have to be for her to consider changing pharmacies. Without missing a beat, she said “only one dollar.” Patients want to shop for better coverage and lower costs, but too often, they can’t or don’t know how.

Part two of my bill may be more controversial to drug companies, but to the average American, I think it just makes sense. The America First Drug Pricing Plan would simply require that drug companies CANNOT charge American consumers more for prescription drugs than they charge consumers in other industrialized nations.

For example, a recent study found that insulin costs in the United States average $1,251 per patient per year. In the United Kingdom, that number is only $532. That’s unacceptable.

I’ve been working on this issue since I was sworn in a few months ago, holding healthcare roundtables with patients as well as all of the stakeholders – drug companies, pharmacies, hospitals, insurers, PBMs, and some of my Senate colleagues who agree with my commitment to fixing this problem.

It may not be the way most people do things in Washington, but I believed we had to get everyone in a room and hash this out. I wanted to hear what their concerns were and I wanted them to hear mine.

There are some critics of my proposal, many from my own side of the political aisle. Let me first say that friends disagree from time to time. Many who have come out against my bill are long-time friends who have supported many of the reforms I pushed as Governor to cut taxes, eliminate regulations, and reform government. And if there is a better way to lower drug prices, I’m all ears.

I spent most of my career in business. I wholeheartedly support free-market capitalism. It has been the greatest force for economic progress in the history of the world. I hope the market can figure out a way to reduce drug costs in that time, but until then we need to act now.

American consumers are facing a crisis of rising drugs costs and we can’t wait any longer. I WILL NOT and CANNOT accept the status quo of rising drug costs. Some have accused me of supporting price controls. No, I’m supporting getting the best deal we can for our seniors. I’m saying we have to drive a hard bargain. I’m doing the exact same thing I did in business. I’m negotiating for the best price I can get.

I’m happy to debate my proposals. But I urge critics to put themselves in the shoes of a senior living on a fixed income who’s seen their drug costs triple in just a few years. This isn’t an academic debate; it’s about real people and the lives that hang in the balance.

The America First Drug Pricing Plan takes real steps to lower costs for patients and puts the consumer back in charge of their healthcare decisions.

Washington seems to have given up on reforming health care – I don’t accept that. We need to get something done this year to address the soaring costs of prescription drugs and I’m fighting every day to make sure we do.