ND Voices See Light at End of Tunnel on Prescription Costs
Friday, September 1, 2023
Older North Dakotans and a key advocacy group are hopeful that seniors will see relief from the heavy burden of prescription drug costs - and they're hailing a big step announced this week.
The Biden administration unveiled the first 10 medications that will be subject to price negotiations under the Medicare program. The action is part of the Inflation Reduction Act approved by Congress.
Bismarck resident Bob Entringer has used one of the medications on the list since 2017. When he retired and switched to Medicare, he found out the blood thinner would be almost $500 for a 90-day prescription.
"I didn't envision the cost, actually," he said. "When I went on Medicare, it was literally sticker shock."
Entringer has found ways to work around it, but said it can be complicated. The negotiated prices won't take effect until 2026, and other drugs will be eventually added. Policy experts note that other IRA provisions are already helping beneficiaries.
The pharmaceutical industry is fighting these moves, saying they'll result in a range of ripple effects.
A key industry group has said a number of these drugs already have rebates and discounts. But Josh Askvig,
AARP North Dakota state director, countered that for too long, drug makers have prioritized profits over the people who desperately need some of these medications.
"We know the number one reason seniors skip or ration their prescriptions is because they can't afford them," he said, "and this must stop, and this is an important step in that direction."
The IRA has already capped insulin prices for Medicare recipients and Askvig said they're monitoring a similar pilot program approved by the North Dakota Legislature. Limited in scope, he said he hopes it will eventually be expanded to more populations.
According to AARP, Medicare Part D spent $50 billion on the first 10 drugs selected for negotiation between June 2022 and May of this year. For Entringer, those figures are alarming as he prepares for other medication expenses when his wife transitions to the program in a few years.
"She's on 11 prescription medications - she's got an auto-immune disease," he said, "so it could get very costly for us."
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