After decades of fighting PhRMA’s lobbyists, patients, advocates and lawmakers scored a huge victory for lower drug prices with passage of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, a new law that includes Medicare reforms that take on drug corporations’ price-gouging and make medicines more affordable for millions.
In just a couple of years, as many as 9 million Americans will benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act’s historic Medicare price negotiations. Over the next four years, Medicare will negotiate lower prices for up to 60 brand-name drugs covered under Part D and Part B and up to 20 additional drugs every year after that. That’s a huge improvement over giving drug corporations monopoly power to set and raise their prices anytime they want, as has historically been the case in Medicare.
February 1st was a critical milestone for implementation of the new negotiations law. That’s the date on which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent their initial offer of a maximum fair price for each of the 10 prescription drugs on this year’s list for drug price negotiations.
For Bennie Gates, a leader in the Richmond Chapter of Virginia Organizing, this milestone can’t come soon enough. Bennie is one of over 1.1 million Virginians enrolled in Medicare Part D. Around 178,000 will benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act’s price negotiations on the first ten drugs chosen by CMS.
Bennie takes Jardiance, a diabetes drug that will have a new negotiated lower price thanks to the new reforms. He recently shared his story in the Dogwood. In his own words:
“I have seen firsthand how affordable medicine can transform families and communities. I grew up in Richmond, one of four children. My family members and I have experienced many of the health conditions that come from the trauma of racism in this city and nation.
My father was a Vietnam veteran. He died at 54 from the malnutrition you can get from diabetes. He spent the last eight years of his life blind and on dialysis.
My mother had hypertension. My siblings and I all have both diabetes and hypertension, and we have been hurt badly by the diabetes. One of my sisters is blind in one eye, and the other has lost all of her peripheral vision. I had my leg amputated several years ago.
But this is actually a story with a happy ending, for me at least.
I take Jardiance for my diabetes, which is one of the 10 medications that Medicare will begin to negotiate prices on with the drug companies, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. These medications were chosen because their cost has gone up astronomically in the last few years and millions of Americans depend on them for their survival.
I’m on Medicare and I have additional health insurance coverage from my employer, so I don’t have to pay very much of the cost of Jardiance, but I notice that a 30-day supply costs Medicare $600. I reach the out-of-pocket in May every year.
Because I work in public health, I know what poverty, racism, and lack of access to recreation and healthy food can do to people. I know what it did to me. When my leg was amputated, I got depressed, too.
But that was before I was prescribed Jardiance. For me, being on the right medication is life-changing. If I miss a meal, I don’t start eating everything in my fridge. I haven’t gained a pound since I started taking it. Because I’m losing weight, I feel motivated to do something for myself again. I hadn’t been swimming since I lost my leg, but now I’m swimming again.”
Bennie, keep swimming, and thank you for sharing your story. It really helps us all understand the real-life impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.