Budget-busting prescription drugs

Taxpayers footing the bill

I watched this on my local news the other night: Runaway drug price hikes squeeze Washington’s budget.

Our state is one that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so I knew we were spending a lot. But I had no idea now much. Through the first 9 months of 2016, my state has spent $1.1 billion on prescription drugs.

Not total medical care. Just prescription drugs.

And Washington is not the only state facing a fiscal nightmare because of skyrocketing drug costs.

Almost half of that spending is for the really high-priced specialty drugs, those that treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV, diabetes and hepatitis C (HCV).

I’ve posted many times about how the drug companies are increasing their prices on drugs—even generics—by several hundred percent.

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I have to pay a lot for my own health insurance and healthcare. As a taxpayer, I’m hurt by these costs, as well.

Federal funding for Medicaid expansion starts disappearing in 2017, and the ballooning cost of prescription drugs will undermine spending in other areas: education, transportation, infrastructure and other social policies such as homelessness.

As one state lawmaker noted, “We have failed the taxpayer categorically, and we simply have got to do a better job.”

But how?

Last month, the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) published a paper entitled States and the Rising Cost of Pharmaceuticals: A Call to Action.

The paper lists several actions both state and federal lawmakers might take to help ease the burden.

Suggestions include increasing price transparency, strengthening unfair trade and consumer protection laws, enabling the import of drugs from Canada, giving states more power to negotiate prices, and regulating drug pricing based on effectiveness and value.

Out-of-control drug pricing was a big topic in Congress before the election. How will it be prioritized during the transition and beyond?

As healthcare policy undergoes another shift, I think we need to keep the pressure on our state and federal lawmakers to rein in Big Pharma and predatory prescription drug pricing.

Mr. Trump wrote a book called “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” 

I hope it wasn’t just hollow boasting.

Sláinte,

Frugal Nurse

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