Prepared Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
National MS Society Conference
Monday, March 2, 2020
Thanks for having me. It’s an honor to be given your Senator of the Year award.
Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable disease.
According to the experts here at the National MS Society, there are nearly 1 million people living with MS in the United States.
Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis requires the use of a highly regimented pharmaceutical routine.
Studies show that early and ongoing treatment is the best way to slow the course of the disease. MS medications have transformed the outlook for relapsing MS over the last 20 years.
Yet, many people living with MS cannot access the medications they need. People with MS face high and escalating drug pricing, financial burden due to out-of-pocket costs and challenges navigating insurance.
Because of these barriers many MS patients alter or delay their treatment and have to sacrifice in other areas to pay for their medications.
In a survey conducted by the National MS Society more than half of the participants reported they are concerned they will not be able to afford their MS treatment over the next few years.
I’m sad to say I have heard stories like this all too often.
In my role as the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Ranking Member Wyden, I have been working tirelessly to lower prescription drug prices and make medications more affordable for all Americans, including those who are living with Multiple Sclerosis.
We held three hearings where we asked tough questions to academic experts, the pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Pharmaceutical Benefit Managers, also known as PBMs.
We took what we learned from those hearings and created a bipartisan bill that passed the Finance Committee in July of last year.
The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, also known as Grassley-Wyden, makes patient’s health and wallets a priority.
For the first time ever, it would place a $3,100 annual cap for out of pocket drug costs for seniors in the Part D program.
It would also allow patients to spread out cost-sharing for high-cost drugs over multiple months.
These reforms provide protection and peace of mind.
The bill makes a number of other improvements in Part D.
It lowers the amount that Medicare beneficiaries have to pay for drugs before they hit their out-of-pocket cap.
It increases the incentives for prescription drug plans and drug companies to negotiate the lowest prices.
It requires drug companies that increase their price above inflation to rebate the difference back to Medicare.
This doesn’t set the price for a drug or tell a company what it can charge.
It protects taxpayers and patients from price gouging and makes Medicare more sustainable.
The bill prohibits pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, from the unfair practice of retroactively taking back a portion of what it paid a pharmacy long after it dispensed the drug.
Eliminating these “DIR” clawbacks lowers patient costs and provides payment predictability that is needed to run a business.
Patients who get drugs administered in the hospital outpatient department or in a doctor’s office also benefit from the bill.
The bill makes improvement to the formula that determines the Medicare Part B payment for these drugs.
These changes reduce Medicare spending and lower out-of-pocket costs for patients with serious conditions like MS.
In Medicaid, Grassley-Wyden provides states with flexibility to make sure patients can access breakthrough treatments – many of which are one-treatment cures – without blowing the state budget in any one year.
The bill also tackles gaming in Medicaid by prohibiting PBMs from charging more than they actually pay for drugs.
Grassley-Wyden also increases transparency across the drug supply chain.
Drug companies will have to publicly justify high prices. PBMs will have to demonstrate that they are free of conflicts of interest.
This will promote more accountability and competition.
We expect an updated score from CBO soon, but from what we already know, Grassley-Wyden will reduce federal spending and lower patient out-of-pocket costs by tens of billions of dollars as well as reduce drug spending in the commercial market.
I want to highlight that the bill has all these positive effects for patients and taxpayers while preserving the ability of drug companies to innovate.
The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act has broad bipartisan support and has the best chance to deliver real results to Americans.
President Trump has publicly supported the bill and says he will sign it when it reaches his desk.
I’m focused on getting even more support from my fellow Senators so Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
You can help me in this endeavor by contacting your Senators and other elected officials.
We work for our constituents and letting them know that you support this bill will help to continue our momentum.
Working together, we can get the Grassley-Wyden prescription drug bill to the Senate floor and passed into law.
Together, we can provide real financial relief to MS patients.
Thank you again for honoring me as Senator of the Year.
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