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Slotkin, HHS Secretary Becerra highlight impacts of Inflation Reduction Act on Medicare

From The Michigan Advance

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Secretary Xavier Becerra on July 7, 2023 | Leah Craig

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Secretary Xavier Becerra on Friday met in Brighton with representatives from the University of Michigan Health System and AARP to discuss the impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on Medicare.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law in August 2022, includes provisions for affordable and accessible health care, and Slotkin noted the law “has impacted people in a very real way.”

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Secretary Xavier Becerra on July 7, 2023 | Leah Craig

“The big takeaways from that bill was allowing Medicare to negotiate for drug prices,” Slotkin said at the event in Brighton. “Anyone who understands what Costco does understands the importance of negotiating:  If you buy in bulk, you should get a lower per unit price, and that is what this bill allows.”

Slotkin said the insurance provided by the U.S. military allowed members to negotiate drug prices to receive the lowest possible cost. Until recently, those covered by Medicare – despite being a significantly larger demographic – were not afforded the same opportunity. Per the IRA, Medicare is now able to directly negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, effectively lowering the cost of lifesaving prescription drugs.

Among the first drugs with renegotiated prices are insulin and various vaccines. The cost of insulin for Medicare patients has been capped at $35 per month. Becerra said that for those living on a fixed income the difference between $35 per month and $117 per month can be life-changing.

Becerra went on to add that prior to this legislation, “the average Michigander on Medicare was paying about $400 more for insulin [annually] than they would have to pay today based on the $35 per month insulin fee.”

Becerra also highlighted the cost of vaccines, particularly the shingles vaccine, which can cost hundreds of dollars. As a result of this legislation, those on Medicare can receive this vaccine and others with no out-of-pocket fees.

Becerra noted that this legislation meets one of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises to lower the cost of prescription drugs for more Americans and provide better benefits.

“Before we’ve even started, we’ve been sued four times by those who don’t want to see this take effect,” Becerra added, referring to lawsuits from Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “But we’re gonna be out there, working hard to defend this law, because it’s time that Americans – not just those in Michigan – stop paying two to three times the price for prescription drugs.”

According to Michigan AARP Director Paula Cunningham, surveys have repeatedly indicated that the high cost of prescription drugs is a primary reason people don’t take their medications.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that in a country that is this wealthy, this wonderful, this great … that people have to decide whether or not to pay their rent or mortgage or to pay these prescription drug prices,” Cunningham said.

Slotkin is running to replace U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) in 2024. Also campaigning in the Democratic primary are Michigan Board of Education President Pamela Pugh; Leslie Love, a former state representative; businessman Nasser Beydoun; and attorney Zack Burns.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Secretary Xavier Becerra on July 7, 2023 | Leah Craig

On the GOP side, Nikki Snyder, a member of the State Board of Education; attorney Alexandria Taylor, who has represented Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo; former Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott; and Michael Hoover, who used to work for Dow Chemical Co., are seeking the nomination.

Slotkin has advocated for accessible and affordable health care and led the Strengthening America’s Strategic Stockpile Act, which was signed into law in December 2022. Last month, she introduced legislation to both expand supply and strengthen supply chains for critical prescription drugs, particularly during shortages. Earlier this year, she co-founded the Domestic Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Caucus, a bipartisan group focused on facilitating domestic production, mitigating supply chain shortages, and ensuring that essential prescriptions are consistently available.

The press conference followed a Friday announcement from the Biden administration outlining a new course of action in lowering the cost of prescription drugs and protecting consumers from hidden medical fees. The press briefing also stated that the first 10 prescription drugs selected for price negotiation will be announced by Sept. 1.

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