Americans are struggling to afford the high cost of healthcare in this country. As many as 24% of New Jersey residents reported that they did not fill a prescription due to cost, and polling shows that 59% of New Jerseyans are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan included the most significant expansion of healthcare in more than a decade, saving American families thousands in health care costs. As a result, 100,000 uninsured New Jerseyans are newly eligible for health coverage tax credits and 13,800 individuals have access to coverage with zero-dollar premiums.
There is still more work to be done, which is why I recently joined Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour in Burlington County to highlight the urgent need for lowering health costs, expanding coverage and reducing racial disparities in care.
The COVID-19 pandemic shined a bright light on the high costs and racial inequities in our healthcare system. Nowhere is this more apparent than in prescription drug pricing.
Americans pay more for prescription drugs than anyone else in the world, and New Jerseyans are not immune to skyrocketing prescription drug costs. In 2019 alone, New Jersey residents spent nearly $254 million on prescriptions.
I often say that paying for necessary prescription drugs has become a Hobson’s Choice – with patients choosing between being able to afford their medication or other expenses like rent, food or car payments. In the richest nation in the world, and one of the wealthiest states in America, this is simply unacceptable. Now more than ever, we must work together to make life-saving medications more affordable and accessible.
That is why on the state level, I have introduced legislation to make prescription drugs more affordable. These efforts include:
- Establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to conduct a study of the pharmaceutical distribution and payment system and to examine what other states are doing to lower prescription drug prices;
- Allowing New Jersey to maximize its bargaining power through bulk purchasing for pharmaceuticals;
- Permitting managed care organizations to consider cost-effectiveness when placing a prescription drug on formulary;
- Prohibiting manufacturers and wholesale distributors from excessive price increases; and
- Ensuring that members of the Drug Utilization Review Board, which decides which medicines can be prescribed to patients under the Medicaid/ NJ FamilyCare programs, are free from influence by disclosing their financial interests in the pharmaceutical industry.
Last, but certainly not least, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law my bill that creates a prescription drug pricing disclosure website, which will bring more drug price transparency to the state and create competition to lower costs.
I am working here in New Jersey to make healthcare a right, not a privilege, and I urge our elected officials in Congress to do the same.
Giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices for all Americans can save patients more than $150 billion and create $500 billion in savings for the federal government – money that could be reinvested to expand Medicare benefits to include dental, vision, and hearing.
Another integral part of lowering health care costs is providing affordable health care through Medicare expansion. It is imperative to provide health care for working families, older adults, and people with disabilities by closing the Medicaid coverage gap, giving more than 2 million uninsured people access to quality insurance.
Importantly, expanding Medicaid coverage will reduce racial disparities while saving lives. People of color would constitute nearly 60% of the people who would gain coverage.
The time is now to lower healthcare costs, expand coverage and reduce racial health disparities across our state and nation.
This fall, Congress has an opportunity to make these policies a reality through budget reconciliation. Voters overwhelmingly support these measures and want their elected officials to take bold, meaningful action. It’s time to give Americans this much-needed relief.