By Rep. Mike Puskaric
Prescription drug costs are high and getting higher, a problem which is getting out of hand. In January 2021, 832 drugs increased their prices by an average of 4.6%. Even worse, Americans pay more than three times what people in other countries pay for the exact same drugs.
President Donald Trump understood why this is so unfair. Why should Americans pay more for the same drugs? The United States has been treated badly.
That’s why President Trump focused on lowering drug costs and keeping money in the pockets of taxpayers by using the free market. He worked to lower costs by expanding competition between drug companies and negotiating directly with them, relieving Americans of these high prices.
But this is a much bigger problem than just hurting individuals. Small businesses are putting off growth. A nationwide survey from the Small Business for America’s Future, showed that 89% of small businesses think prescription drug costs are too high, while 55% of small businesses say rising costs have delayed their growth opportunities.
And our hospitals -- especially our rural hospitals -- are bearing the brunt of this too. Our rural hospitals don’t need another costly expense. They should be focused on saving lives.
This cannot continue.
That’s why I have introduced House Bill 321
, the Pharmaceutical Transparency Act, which would create a new independent board to find out why drug costs for Americans are so high and protect Pennsylvania taxpayers from overpaying for drugs.
This new Transparency Board would investigate medications that drive up costs for everyone and identify questionable practices and abuse by drug manufacturers. This concept of government oversight and fiscal accountability is not new. Lawmakers must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Pennsylvania taxpayers get hit by high prescription drug prices not once but three times. First, they pay at the pharmacy counter when they need to get their medications. Second, they pay more for their health insurance. Since $1 in every $5 spent on health care pays for prescription drugs, the high prices drive up the cost of insurance. Lastly, taxpayers are unfairly forced to pay again in the form of high taxes to the state to cover state spending. As costs continue to rise, dollars must be taken away from other critical programs to support prescription drugs, and taxpayers need a break.
And it’s going to get worse. Pennsylvania’s population is rapidly aging. Many older adults or seniors take multiple prescriptions and are living on a fixed income. It’s important to take action now to plan for our future.
Pharmaceutical companies have unlimited opportunity to increase prices whenever they want and however much they want, regardless of how it affects the people who need those drugs or taxpayers, who have no insight into how their hard-earned dollars are spent.
The former administration set us on the right path, and I want to bring these ideas to Pennsylvania. The new board my legislation proposes is not an expansion of government, but rather government done right. The board has a mandate to limit its footprint, obtain data in an efficient and cost-effective way, and would not use any taxpayer dollars to fund its work, relying on nominal assessments on pharmaceutical manufactures similar to what already exists in health insurance oversight. With this legislation, Pennsylvania would be well positioned to follow President Trump’s lead.
This will make Pennsylvania a leader on this issue, joining states like Maine, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Louisiana, which have made strides toward increased transparency in prescription drug pricing. While Washington, DC, spins its wheels on this issue, Pennsylvania must move forward to protect taxpayer dollars immediately.
Taxpayers deserve real oversight of prescription drug prices. It’s irresponsible to spend their money without any accountability, and it’s up to lawmakers in Harrisburg to protect our constituents. I urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to work with me to pass House Bill 321 this session.
Representative Mike Puskaric
39th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Rick Leiner
717.260.6437 (office), 717.497.8478 (cell)