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Fighting Higher Drug Costs

Posted on 09/30/19 by TheAARPBulletin

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By Donna Liquori

When Fay Hill, 74, of Queens, made a run-of-the-mill trip to the pharmacy for an asthma inhaler, she got a huge shock: a $500 price tag.

Hill, an asthma sufferer, needs an inhaler to breathe. “This is why seniors don’t know whether to eat, take their prescriptions or pay their rent or mortgage,” Hill said. “It’s outrageous. How can you survive?”

After a few texts with her doctor, she was able to obtain a less expensive inhaler, but the episode left her rattled and determined to join with AARP in its fight for lower drug prices.

Along with other AARP New York volunteers, she shared her experience with state lawmakers and pressed them to consider policies to make drugs cheaper. Hill said those she met with were receptive after listening to her story. “The whole room couldn’t believe it,” Hill said. “So I’m hoping there are legislators who will do something.”

Heading into the upcoming January state legislative session, AARP volunteers and staff are calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to add to his proposed budget a package of measures for lower drug prices that would ease the burden on all New Yorkers, said Beth Finkel, AARP New York’s state director.

“This is an opportunity for New York to take leadership and look at a comprehensive approach to drug affordability,” Finkel said. “Despite PhRMA’s opposition, we’re optimistic these proposals would hold the industry accountable and make prescription drugs more affordable.”

Price reform

In May, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) attended a lobby-day news conference at the Albany statehouse, after which AARP volunteers from across the state, including Hill, championed greater transparency and an end to inflated drug costs.

“We are going to stand up and join with Governor Cuomo and our administration and do everything we can to reel in the exorbitant, unconscionable prices of prescription drugs,” Hochul told the crowd. “It is so much easier to go over to Canada and get the same drug so much cheaper. What the heck is going on in our country?”

The proposed AARP-backed measures would:

Require certification from the U.S. secretary of health and human services that a New York importation program meets federal standards, to ensure product safety and consumer savings.

Require prescription drug manufacturers to disclose agreements to postpone the introduction of generics by authorizing the state attorney general to post the agreements publicly.

Empower the attorney general to prosecute prescription drug price gouging. A bill that would prohibit insurers from increasing out-of-pocket costs for specific drugs within the enrollment year was passed by the Legislature in June to be sent to the governor.

“High drug prices affect everyone. Anyone you speak to can immediately tell you a story, if not about themselves then about somebody they know,” Finkel noted.

AARP is asking New Yorkers to urge the governor to support these proposals by calling 844-254-6882 or going to action.aarp.org/StopRxGreedNY.

Donna Liquori is a writing living in Delmar, New York.

This story is provided by AARP New York. Visit the AARP New York page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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