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Rose, senior citizens talk prescription drug prices

BAY RIDGE — U.S. Rep. Max Rose held a roundtable discussion with a group of senior citizens to discuss the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs and what the federal government can do to help older adults afford the life-saving medications they depend on.

“We’ve been letting Big Pharma price gouge and rip off our seniors for far too long,” said Rose, who hosted the roundtable at his Brooklyn district office on Third Avenue on Oct. 18.

Rose was joined by Peter Killen, president of AARP Bay Ridge Chapter 3630, and a handful of the group’s members.

“Some of our members pay high prices for their medications,” Killen, a retired NYPD detective, told the Home Reporter on Monday.

At the Summer Stroll events that took place on Third Avenue in July and August, Killen set up a table and asked pedestrians to sign an AARP petition demanding that Congress do something about drug prices. “Over 250 people signed it,’ he said.

The prices are so high that a simple adjustment in medications can hurt a senior citizen in the pocketbook, according to Killen. He said one of the group’s members started taking a prescribed medication and suffered an allergic reaction to it. The doctor prescribed a different drug, “but by then, she had already paid for original drug,” Killen said. The patient paid twice, once for the old medication and then again for the new pills.

Rose told Killen he would try to get the drug company to give the woman a rebate.

Rose, a Democrat representing Bay Ridge, Southwest Brooklyn and Staten Island, talked about efforts currently underway in the House to get Big Pharma to lower prescription drug prices.

The centerpiece of these efforts is the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, a bill that would end the ban against Medicare negotiating directly with drug companies.

“It’s time to change the law to let Medicare negotiate drug prices, and put those savings back in our seniors’ pockets,” Rose said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that negotiated drug prices would save taxpayers $345 billion in Medicare Part D costs in the years 2023 to 2029.

The bill would also allow Americans with private insurance to get the benefit from the negotiated lower drug prices the way Medicare recipients do. In addition, the legislation would create a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

Rose, who is a co-sponsor of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, noted that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently voted to incorporate a bill he sponsored, called the More Help for Seniors Act of 2019, into the larger bill.

Rose’s bill seeks to use the savings from negotiated drug prices to lower costs for low-income senior citizens.

Rose said he learned a lot at the roundtable. “I appreciated having the opportunity to hear directly from those who have been hit hardest by skyrocketing prescription drug costs and look forward to getting this done,” he said.

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