Minnesota senators hope anger will help drive support for bill to curb drug costs
WASHINGTON – Kristine Lund spends roughly half her $2,400 monthly disability check on prescription drugs to treat a degenerating spine, chronic pain and intestinal issues. The 51-year-old former schoolteacher knows exactly what the high costs of medicines mean for Americans who cannot afford them.
“If I didn’t have my boyfriend,” Lund said, “I’d be homeless.”
Lund is among thousands of Minnesotans U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar had in mind when they teamed with 14 other Senate Democrats to offer an “Improving Access To Affordable Prescription Drugs Act,” known officially as S. 771. Franken introduced the bill March 29. A companion bill was offered in the House. They represent one of the most comprehensive efforts ever to address the prickly problem of prescription drug prices.
The bill lifts a current ban on Medicare negotiating pharmaceutical prices. It pushes generics to market faster. It quickly closes the Medicare “Doughnut Hole,” where seniors must pay the entire costs of prescriptions. It allows prescription drugs to be imported from other developed countries whose safety and effectiveness testing is as good or better than the U.S.