Congress is once again tossing around a piece of legislation that will do more for big government than for Americans. While intended to lower out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and treatments, H.R. 3 could take away mature adults’ ability to make their own healthcare decisions and put it in the hands of the federal government.
Government interference not only imposes on the patient-provider relationship, but it also puts mature adults’ health at risk by restricting what treatments should be at their finger tips. Millions of retirees rely on the Medicare program because it provides access to various treatments for chronic conditions, such as cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other serious illnesses, and the flexibility to personalize these treatments based off their individual needs. However, by referencing foreign countries' prices and healthcare systems, policymakers could import the same access issues patients abroad face, leaving Americans with fewer treatments to choose from.
Not only will fewer drugs be available for Medicare beneficiaries now, but setting low prices for critical medicines will slow down innovation in order to make up for the costs manufacturers will have to eat to keep drugs available to patients. Implementing foreign reference pricing will lead to an estimated 61 fewer medicines available over the next 10 years. These medicines could change the lives of people living with diabetes or high blood pressure or maybe be the treatment for a future pandemic, but by chilling innovation, lawmakers are putting their research and development at risk along with the health of the vulnerable Americans hoping for cures to their illnesses. Any government policy that would reduce an estimated $500 billion to $1 trillion in revenue for an entire industry is overreaching and financial losses to that extent won’t go quietly. Every Medicare beneficiary would feel the effects of this hit on the biopharmaceutical industry.
Many of the referenced countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Greece, make drug reimbursement and coverage decisions based on cost-effectiveness assessments tied to the quality-adjusted life-year (QALY). By modeling this flawed approach to drug pricing, lawmakers in the U.S. would be setting the precedent that they are more worried about saving a buck than ensuring chronically ill patients can access life-changing treatments.
These flaws demonstrate why I’m disappointed to hear policymakers touting H.R. 3 as a policy that everyone should get behind. It was not a salient solution when it was first proposed, and with its reintroduction, it’s now even more strikingly tone-deaf to the current issues mature adults are facing because of COVID-19.
Policies that make it easier for older adults to receive healthcare treatment are what we need. Any form of government price-setting will construct new barriers that will deter these seniors from seeking the medicines and treatments they need to stay healthy and active members of society. I urge lawmakers to focus on viable patient-centered solutions so we can get our healthcare system back on track and work for all Americans.