Dear Senator Wicker and Congressman Palazzo,
I am writing to bring to your attention the economic challenges Mississippi wage earners currently face with the continuing rise in prescription medicine and health insurance co pays. This phenomenon, dating back well over two decades continues unabated and will continue without policy intervention.
Recently, light was shed last week on the cause for this distortion in health economics when the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy showed that pharmaceutical spending in the U.S. per capita had reached $1,010 in 2012. The next highest spender was Germany at $668 per capita. Australia came in at $558.
This means that the cost to German citizens for their prescription medication is only 66% of what U.S. citizens pay, including of course Mississippi wage earners, while the Aussies pay only 55%. Can one fairly ask why there’s such a difference?
The Kaiser researchers point out that those countries’ citizens enjoy a much better deal on their medications because those governments have in place policies that reasonably regulate drug prices while allowing pharmaceutical companies to make a reasonable profit. And they are not alone. In fact, every other country in the developed world, except the United States, has instituted some kind of price control mechanism with respect to prescription drugs specifically to avoid the undue financial hardship on its citizens, as is currently being experienced by your constituents, our neighbors. Even the U.S. Veterans Administration and Medicaid program negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma. Senator Wicker, you have personal knowledge of this having sat on the Veterans Affairs Committee which oversees the VA’s drug price negotiations with Big Pharma.
A major cause for this discrepancy results from insurers being powerless to negotiate or control drug prices levied by Big Pharma. As reported by PBS last year in a report on drug prices around the world, government agencies set limits on how much they (and their citizens) will pay drug makers for their products. Astoundingly, PBS reports that “insurers typically accept the price set by the makers for each drug, especially when there is no competition in a therapeutic area, and then cover the cost with high co-payments” -- co pays levied on the backs of the customer, your constituents. This is a “whatever you can get away with” pricing scheme by Big Pharma that our political leadership is well aware of and continues to shamefully permit.
The Republican Party has engendered business, especially Big Business, for many years. We are all for business, big and small. But to allow Big Business like Big Pharma to levy the drug prices they do at the current levels, and enjoy the enormous profit margins they do at the expense of U.S. wage earners is awful, unethical and should be remedied.
In light of this, I respectfully ask that if you are concerned about this unnecessary yet increasing health care burden for Mississippians, that you initiate legislation the effects of which will 1) stem or stop the continuing rise in drug prices and drug co pays for Mississippians and others and 2) allow the U.S. government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, as other developing countries are currently doing, and as the U.S. Veterans Administration and the Medicaid program are now doing, still allowing for a reasonable profit. This will help Mississippians and others to be able to better afford their prescription medications and lighten an ever-present and increasingly burdensome health care expense for them.
Can you help the Mississippi worker with this?
Charles J. Gruich, M.D.