HARRISBURG, Pa., April 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 200 AARP members from throughout Pennsylvania today told state lawmakers that they are struggling to pay spiking prescription drug prices and can't afford to wait for help any longer.
At a rally held in the state Capitol Rotunda, AARP Pennsylvania State Director Bill Johnston-Walsh told the crowd that AARP research shows 72 percent of older adults are concerned about the cost of their medications, and want policymakers to act on prescription drug prices.
"Rising prescription drug prices hit older adults particularly hard," said Johnston-Walsh. "Medicare Part D enrollees take an average of 4.5 prescriptions per month, and those are often costs they will face every year for the rest of their lives."
He said AARP's most recent study showed retail prices for brand-named drugs increased by an average of 8.4% in 2017 alone – four times the rate of inflation.
"We're here today because people of all ages depend on their prescriptions, and unfair prices are putting their medicines out of reach," said Johnston-Walsh. "No one should have to choose between paying for food, electricity or their medications."
AARP officials were joined at the rally by Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of Aging Robert Torres, representatives from the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, leaders of state legislative committees overseeing senior issues and AARP volunteer leader Stella Hyde from Linesville, a two-time cancer survivor.
"Due to the effects of chemotherapy and a chronic autoimmune disease, I take biological drugs costing almost $4,000 each month," she said. "I have insurance to cover some of those costs, but many others aren't so lucky. We must do something to help patients who are paying exorbitant prices for the medicines they need."
Johnston-Walsh said current prescription drug price trends are not sustainable, and affect all Pennsylvanians through increased health care premiums, deductibles, and other forms of cost-sharing. They are also driving larger cost increases for taxpayer-funded safety net programs.
"We need common sense solutions to lower prescription drug costs, and there a number of ways state lawmakers can help reduce drug prices for our residents of all ages," he said.
Those potential solutions include expanding access to Pennsylvania's PACE and PACENET prescription drug assistance programs that are funded with state lottery proceeds and currently serve more than 260,000 residents. While the legislature approved a limited extension of the PACENET income limit last year, there hasn't been a change to PACE program income standards in the past 14 years.
In addition to increasing lottery funding for the PACE and PACENET programs, Johnston-Walsh said AARP is also asking lawmakers to approve a package of proposals that will help lower prescription drug costs that includes:
- Senate Bill 484 that would limit insurance copayments for expensive specialty tier drugs.
- House Bill 1042 that establishes the state's first ever Prescription Drug Pricing Task Force.
- House Bill 568 that models legislation approved in other states and requires pharmaceutical companies to provide justifications for price increases to state officials.
- House Bill 375 that would exclude Veterans benefits from PACE and PACENET income limits.
- House Bill 684 that would exclude savings bond principal and interest from PACE and PACENET income limits.
- House Bill 754 that would exclude a Social Security cost-of-living increase from PACE and PACENET program income limits.
Johnston-Walsh added that AARP could support additional proposals developed later in the legislative session to help lower prescription drug process.
"We want to be clear that Pennsylvanians can't afford to wait any longer for help paying for their prescription drugs," said Johnston-Walsh. "Rest assured AARP's 1.8 million Pennsylvania members will continue fighting for ways to make the prescription drugs they need more affordable."
SOURCE AARP Pennsylvania