The cost of prescription medication has been an increasing burden to many Americans, and despite the Affordable Care Act, its partial dismantling and constant static from both political parties, there has been little relief.
It is thus welcome news that President Trump announced recently a plan to lower prices for some prescription medications. “We are taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country,” he said.
The president zeroed in on disparities across the globe. “Same company. Same box. Same pill. Made in the exact same location, and you would go to some countries and it would be 20 percent of the cost of what we pay. We’re fixing it.”
Under Trump’s plan, drugs administered in a doctor’s office and paid through Medicare would be priced downward to a level more equitable with international prices. Right now, average prices in the U.S. are approximately double those in the rest of the world.
The projected effect of the new plan can be seen with chemotherapy treatments. “Some Medicare beneficiaries use a drug to fight infection that currently costs Medicare $4,700 every time they receive chemotherapy,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “On average it costs other countries $1,100. These beneficiaries would see their co-insurance drop from over $900 every time they use the drug to under $300 after full implementation of the proposal.”
The new payment model would be phased in over five years and overall savings for American taxpayers and patients are projected to total $17.2 billion, with out-of-pocket savings potentially totaling $3.4 billion, according to HHS.
This is a good first step. The plan still has to be fully fleshed out and is going to be implemented cautiously.
Other countries would need to shoulder more of the overall burden and that will require a measure of diplomacy from the Trump administration. Attacking “foreign freeloading” will have to be supplanted with something more palatable.
Regardless of what form of health care Americans want — whether it’s single-payer, a public option or something else — we can all agree that a family should not have to go broke because of a cancer diagnosis.
This is a good start to reaching that goal.