TESTIMONY OF AARP MASSACHUSETTS BEFORE
THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HEALTH CARE FINANCING
APRIL 11, 2019
Good afternoon. I am Mike Festa, state director of AARP Massachusetts. AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. On behalf of the nearly 38 million members nationwide and nearly 800,000 members here in the Commonwealth, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
No one should have to choose between food and medicine but we know drug companies are making billions in profits off seniors and hardworking Americans. It’s time to crack down on these drug companies for charging Americans the highest prices in the world for the medicines they need.
AARP appreciates the Committee’s focus on legislative solutions designed to lower the high price of prescription drugs, increase access to prescription drugs, and increase transparency of prescription drugs costs.
I am joined today by two of our members, Laurie of South Boston and Kathleen of East Boston, who will share their personal stories related to the importance of prescription drugs to their health and what the high cost may mean to them. First, I would like to speak about a few key points on the issue.
Appropriate use of prescription drugs can prolong life, improve quality of life and postpone or replace the need for intensive, often expensive medical treatments. AARP members consistently tell us they cannot afford the medications they need and often have to make difficult choices as a result.
Here’s a few points on prescription drugs specifically about older adults:
- The annual median income of Medicare beneficiaries is just over $26,000. One-quarter have less than $15,000 in savings;
- Medicare Part D enrollees take on average 4-5 prescriptions per month, and over two-thirds have two or more concurrent chronic illnesses; and
- 65 percent of older adults take three or more prescription medications on a regular basis.
This population simply cannot afford higher and higher prices for the medications they need.
A key way to help address prescription drug price increases and high consumer costs is by improving price transparency. Drug manufacturers that choose to increase the price of prescription drugs should be required to disclose to taxpayers the information behind their decisions to raise prices. Improved access to such information could help patients, providers, and policymakers assess whether a drug price increase is reasonable.
AARP supports the following:
- Requirements for drug manufacturers to report and justify any price increases over a certain percentage in the last several years as it relates to the health care cost benchmark; We strongly support requiring drug manufacturers to justify their prices – increases which could make it even more difficult for older Americans to afford the medications they need.
- Allowing the Attorney General to monitor prescription drug cost trends; to obtain information related to cost and market impact; and to require those organizations that are contributing to cost growth must produce documents, answer interrogatories and provide testimony under oath is a good step. Accountability is important and enforcement should meaningfully promote compliance with the provisions of the bills.
- Establishing upper payment limits;
- Strengthening the gift ban;
- Creating a statewide academic detailing program;
- Limiting beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs;
- Adding state provisions to lift the gag clause to include groups not mentioned in the federal law and requiring pharmacists to disclose information about available lower prices; and
- Establishing a system for the bulk purchasing of drugs.
If all were passed, Massachusetts consumers would be better able to afford their drugs.
Simply put: We must stop letting drug companies price gouge seniors and hardworking Bay State residents and pass bipartisan legislation to lower prescription drug prices.
We look forward to working with you on this important issue. We would be happy to discuss our concerns in more detail with you at a separate time. Thank you.
To read more about our work to Stop Rx Greed, head to www.aarp.org/Rx