AARP Rhode Island, Senators Reed and Whitehouse Speak Out
Four Million Americans, Including 16,114 Rhode Islanders Signed AARP Petition Calling on Congress to Act
PROVIDENCE (March 7, 2022) Today, AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine Taylor, Volunteer State President Marcus Mitchell and Volunteer Lead Federal Liaison Dr. Phil Zarlengo joined Rhode Island US Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse for a virtual news conference highlighting the need for Congress to lower prescription drug prices.
During the event, AARP Rhode Island delivered a petition signed by more than 16,114 Rhode Islanders calling for Congress to act now and stop unfair drug prices. AARP has called for fair drug prices for years and supports legislation that passed the House in November, which would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, put a cap on out-of-pocket costs that older adults pay for their prescription drugs and impose penalties on drug companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation.
“Americans are fed up with paying three times what people in other countries pay for the same drugs. More than four million people across the country, including more than 16,000 here in the Ocean State, are joining AARP to demand lower prices for prescription drugs,” said Taylor. “There will never be a better time to lower drug prices than the historic opportunity in front of Congress. Now is the time to get it done!”
“We hear you loud and clear,” said Senator Reed. “Congress must address this issue of drug pricing. The system continues to force families into untenable choices between their health and other basic needs. One of the simplest things to do is to allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. I have been urging administrations, both Republican and Democratic for more than a decade to do this.”
“The VA already does this,” said Senator Whitehouse. “And there is a big discrepancy in what the Veterans Administration pays for drugs and what Medicare pays for drugs. We have a reconciliation bill still in the Senate; it’s something Democrats can pass with only 50 votes. The bad news is that we need all 50 members to agree on the reconciliation measure and that has proven difficult. I hope we can agree on a package that all 50 of us can sign off on…and finally, finally, finally give Americans the drug pricing relief that they need. AARP is incredibly important in this fight. All your members make a difference. Thank you for stepping up yet again."
Lowering prescription drug prices has widespread support among voters, regardless of their party affiliation. An AARP survey of voters found that strong majorities of voters want Congress to act on the issue, with 70% saying it is very important. The survey also found that 87% of voters support allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
AARP Rhode Island advocates were joined via a recorded video by Shirley H., an AARP volunteer who struggles to afford the medications she needs. “When I retired, I was shocked at the increased cost of my prescriptions,” she said. “When I went from a private insurance plan to Medicare, one of my medications increased to five-hundred dollars. I had to spread out the refills of some of my medications so I could afford them and not have them refilled at the same time. The anxiety of having to do that, wondering if I could afford to take my prescriptions, is a terrible thing.”
More information about AARP’s Fair Drug Prices campaign can be found at aarp.org/rx.