Op-Ed: Where’s Pallone when we need him?

Proposed Rebate Rule Hands a Hefty Payday to Big Pharma Paid for By Patients AND Taxpayers

By Rich Pezzullo
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There is full -fledged crisis that is not on the border – it’s in our families and can no longer be ignored.  One in four Americans cannot afford their medication.

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There is a controversial initiative being pushed in Washington called the Rebate Rule, which affects the ability of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) such as Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and OptumRx to negotiate rebates with drug makers for Medicare recipients. We need leaders from both political parties- including Congressman Frank Pallone, to come out and take a more vocal, stronger stand against this.

Understanding the role of PBMs is important to recognizing the detrimental impact of the Rebate Rule. PBMs negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of health insurance companies to get discounts on Medicare Part D drugs – drugs that our country’s most vulnerable patients rely on to survive.  The savings they negotiate in the form of rebates benefit patients by helping insurers lower total costs.

According to the administration’s own analysts at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare Part D premiums will increase by 25 percent overall and 19 percent in 2020 alone.  This would be the biggest increase in history, a financial burden that seniors simply cannot bear.

American taxpayers would suffer under the Rebate Rule.  Federal spending will increase $196 billion from 2020–2029, making it the most expensive regulation in U.S. history.

And worse? The Rebate Rule hands Big Pharma (an industry with the highest profit margins in our country) a windfall of $100 billion.  The last thing AMERICA needs is another corporate welfare program. This is government endorsing an entire industry putting profits over people.  It’s simply wrong.

Pharmaceutical companies blaming PBMs for high prices is just a smoke screen.  They divert consumers’ attention away from the real problem: the anti-competitive and price gouging tactics of Big Pharma.

Every patient should be able to afford the medication they need to survive, but the Rebate Rule offers no certainty of lower prices — while guaranteeing premium hikes, irresponsible federal spending and more concentration of power with Big Pharma.  It’s time to hold Big Pharma accountable for its price-gouging tactics.

Congressman Pallone’s voice and influence are needed. He has been criticized as being ineffective and disengaged in the past. This is his chance to shine.  Call him and tell him, “Get to work!”   

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RICH PEZZULLO is a technology specialist, retired major with the U.S. Army reserve, and a former candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 6th District

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