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PA Seniors Rally for Reduced Drug Prices

Prices for brand-name drugs widely used by seniors rose 8.4 percent in 2017. (Pxhere)
Prices for brand-name drugs widely used by seniors rose 8.4 percent in 2017. (Pxhere)
April 10, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Seniors from across Pennsylvania are rallying in Harrisburg today, telling legislators they need help coping with the soaring cost of prescription drugs.

More than 200 AARP members plan to gather at the Statehouse with the message that they can't take it anymore. It's part of a national campaign by AARP to protest drug prices in the United States, which are the highest in the world.

AARP Pennsylvania state director Bill Johnston-Walsh cited a national study released last year that said 72 percent of likely voters age 50 and older are concerned about the cost of their medications.

"Of that 72 percent, 40 percent did not fill a prescription provided by their doctor," he said, "with cost being the most common reason why they did not fill that prescription."

The national campaign is called "Stop Rx Greed, Cut Drug Prices Now." In addition, AARP Pennsylvania wants lawmakers to cap out-of-pocket prescription costs for Medicaid, expand the state's PACE and PACENET programs, and require manufacturers to justify price increases.

Johnston-Walsh said bills now in the General Assembly would help seniors keep their state prescription-drug assistance eligibility by exempting veterans benefits and Social Security cost-of-living increases from income limits.

"That impacts about 10,000 individuals a year that would be thrown off the PACE and PACENET rolls because it puts their income too high to be able to stay with the program," he said.

The veterans' bill is House Bill 375. The bill to exempt Social Security COLA income is House Bill 754. Another measure, House Bill 684, would exclude savings-bond principal and interest from income limits.

Johnston-Walsh said other states already have approved legislation to help people get the prescription drugs they need at prices they can afford.

"We're looking at closing loopholes to stop brand-name companies from blocking access to lower-cost generic drugs," he said, "and then the transparency piece, to make it easier for consumers to understand what my drug price is and why it's that price, and can I get it someplace else cheaper."

More information about the Stop Rx Greed campaign is online at AARP.org/rx.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA