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Last year, one of my constituents, Bob Miller, told me a story I will never forget.
Bob is a 71-year-old on Medicare who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), an unpredictable and debilitating disease that impacts his central nervous system. For over a decade, Bob relied on Betaseron to treat his MS flare-ups and prevent the disease from progressing.
But over the years, Bob watched the cost of this life-sustaining medicine skyrocket. By 2016, his out-of-pocket cost for Betaseron had risen to over $10,000 a year and Bob was forced to stop taking the drug he relied on to manage his MS. Even with insurance, this drug was too expensive.
While Bob's situation broke my heart, his story is not unfamiliar to me. We live in one of the richest countries in the world — and yet many Minnesotans are left wondering each month if they'll be able to refill the prescriptions they rely on every day. The fact that so many Minnesotans share this common struggle is unconscionable.
Earlier this month I was proud to play a role in making the Inflation Reduction Act a reality and ensuring that we are finally able to start tackling the cost of prescription drugs costs. Starting next year, no one on Medicare will pay more than $35 a month for their insulin, seniors on Medicare will be able to access their vaccines free-of-cost and drug companies will be required to reimburse taxpayers if the costs of their prescription drugs rise faster than inflation. For the first time in history, Medicare will have the power to negotiate fair drug prices for certain drugs on behalf of seniors like Bob.
This bill will lower out-of-pocket prescription drug prices for millions of Americans. That is significant progress — and finally asks Big Pharma to compete — something they already should have to do when vying to serve our nation's seniors.
I was disheartened to read Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor's recent commentary outlining his opposition to these historic health care reforms ("Health care changes will hurt many Americans," Aug. 21). So, I thought I'd put the impact of this bill into perspective.
The Inflation Reduction Act will protect 820,000 Minnesotans on Medicare from Big Pharma's price hikes by capping their pharmacy costs at $2,000 a year, save 85,000 Minnesotans hundreds of dollars on their health care premiums, give 87,000 Minnesota seniors on Medicare the ability to access their vaccines free-of-cost, cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month for 47,000 Minnesotans on Medicare, extend the ACA tax credits to give 27,000 Minnesotans the ability to access health insurance, and allow 25,000 small business owners and self-employed adults in Minnesota to access affordable health care coverage.
At the end of the day, this bill will give thousands of Minnesotans access to the medicine, care and insurance they need to live safe and healthy lives.
Additionally, I would like to remind Mr. Taylor that large employers, like himself, and commercial insurers have a role to play in this fight. They possess a tremendous amount of market power and a unique capacity to effectively push back on price increases from the pharmaceutical companies. Our bill gives Medicare the power to do what large employers and commercial insurers have been able to do for years — negotiate the price they pay for prescription drugs.
The Inflation Reduction Act was not hastily written in one night. It is a comprehensive, fiscally responsible bill that will improve quality of life and bring down the cost of living for thousands of Minnesotans. Of course, it's not perfect. But seeing all that we have accomplished this summer alone makes me more optimistic than ever that enacting additional lifesaving reforms is well within our reach.
My friend Bob from Prior Lake said it best when he said the Inflation Reduction Act will bring him and thousands of Minnesotans "peace of mind," and the guarantee they will be able to afford their lifesaving and life-sustaining medicines. That is historic progress that cannot and should not be discounted.
Angie Craig, a Democrat, represents Minnesota's Second District in the U.S. House.