RPEC Weekly ACTION Newsletter – 3-1-2019
In This Edition
- ACTION Alert – Contact Your Legislators
- Drug Companies Fail to Justify Drug Prices at Senate Hearing
- WA State Legislative Bill Summary
- 2019 WA Legislative Town Halls
ACTION Alert – Contact Your Legislators
While we remain hopeful that HB 1390 (Providing a one-time 3% COLA) and HB 1085 (Increasing the PEBB Medicare Benefit) will be passed out of the House Appropriations Committee by the end of the day (March 1st) we are asking our members to continue their efforts to encourage their legislators to support these bills through the budget process.
Please contact your legislators and ask them to include the COLA and PEBB Medicare Benefit at $200 or more per month in the House or Senate Budget proposals. Be sure to include your personal story about how a lack of a COLA or increases in premiums have impacted you.
We also need our members to contact their legislators and urge them to request a floor vote on HB 1220 and SB 5275 (Adding a nonvoting representative from the office of the insurance commissioner to the public employees’ benefits board)
You may reach your legislators by calling: 1-800-562-6000
Drug Companies Fail to Justify Drug Prices at Senate Hearing
From the Alliance for Retired Americans – Seven pharmaceutical corporation executives testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday about the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States. They could not, however, explain why prices were so much more expensive in the United States compared to other developed countries, instead offering excuses and “solutions” that did everything but lower costs for the consumer.
The executives largely justified the prices, claiming that prices reflected investment in research and development, patents and marketing costs. Richard Gonzalez — CEO of AbbVie, which produces the arthritis and Crohn’s disease medication Humira — denied that the drug’s 130 patents prevented the development of a generic option. Sen. John Cornyn (TX) disputed the claim at length.
At one point Mr. Gonzalez acknowledged that the United States has some of the highest prices in the world. Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), the ranking member on the committee, then asked, “How is that not gouging American consumers with high prices?”
One particularly outrageous statement was made by Kenneth Frazier, chief executive of Merck. He said that prices were lower in Europe because walking away from negotiations with those countries would be “immoral,” leaving patients there without access to medications. The statement was part of a revelation that charging Americans more for the same products is baked into their companies’ pricing systems.
Cutting prices would sacrifice industry innovation, claimed Frazier, and government price controls simply wouldn’t do enough, according to Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (IA) promised that Congress would respond to the drug price problem in an “effective way.”
“Drug corporation executives proved that they have zero qualms about outrageously over-charging Americans,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “We urge Congress to make good on their promise to help retirees and all Americans by making medicines more accessible. We can start by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices.”
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll out today shows large majorities of Americans from both major parties support steps to control prescription drug costs such as removing barriers to generics and allowing patients to get less expensive drugs from Canada. By a 9-to-1 ratio, Republicans, Democrats and independents favor making drug companies show list prices in their advertising.
WA State Legislative Bill Summary
Below are the bills we are tracking as they move through the legislative process. Full Text and updates on these bills can be found by searching for the bill number at: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/
Here is a link to the list of bills currently of focus to RPEC: http://www.rpecwa.org/bill-summary-3-1-2019/
2019 WA Legislative Town Halls
Many state legislators will return home over the next few weeks and host local town halls. This is an excellent opportunity to meet face-to-face with your legislator and discuss the issues that are important to you and your retirement security! A few happen as early as this weekend, so check the list for your legislative district.
Not all legislators are listed as of today’s report and many still have their meetings listed as “To Be Determined.” If your legislator is one of these, please reach out to their offices and inquire as to when they might be holding a town hall in your area.
The list of current scheduled meetings is available on our website: http://www.rpecwa.org/2019-legislative-town-halls/
Here is a link to the list if you wish to download it: http://rpecwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019_WA_Legislative_Town_Halls.pdf