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U.S. Rep. Underwood discusses prescription drug plans in Harvard

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (right) meets with Harvard resident Kathleen Polizzi on Saturday to discuss rising prescription drug costs.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (right) meets with Harvard resident Kathleen Polizzi on Saturday to discuss rising prescription drug costs.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, was in Harvard on Saturday to meet with resident Kathleen Nelson, one of the many residents struggling under the weight of lofty prescription drug prices.

Nelson, who suffers from Crohn’s disease and is on disability with a fixed income, estimated that for her to receive the necessary medications to treat her conditions, it would costs thousands of dollars a month.

“I’m sorry, but I think it’s kind of inhumane,” Nelson said. “And I’m not the first patient this has happened to.”

As she listened to Nelson’s story, Underwood laid out her five-point plan she unveiled in October to combat high prescription drug prices.

The first part of the plan is to cap Medicare out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 annually, which she said would improve the Part D Drug benefit that currently allows unlimited out-of-pocket costs.

Underwood said Americans with private insurance coverage also would see real savings from eliminating out-of-pocket costs for common medications such as insulin and inhalers.

In September, Underwood introduced the Chronic Condition Copay Elimination Act, which would require private health insurance plans to cover certain preventive care and prescription drugs without charging a copayment.

The next step would be to allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for the most expensive drugs and insulin to prevent pharmaceutical companies from price gouging Americans, who pay far more than patients in other countries for the same medications.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that negotiations could lower prices by 55%, saving Medicare about $345 billion between 2023 and 2029.

Underwood said these are measures that are gaining bipartisan support.

The third step of Underwood’s plan would require pharmaceutical companies to publicly report and justify any increases to prescription drug prices. New enforcement authorities then could penalize drug companies that fail to justify any raised prices.

Underwood’s plan also aims to close loopholes that prevent consumers from gaining access to more affordable generic medications.

Finally, Underwood proposes restoring full federal funding for biomedical research over the next 10 years to work toward creating lifesaving treatments and cures.

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