BILLINGS - U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, came to RiverStone Health in Billings on Thursday to talk about prescription drugs and how the Inflation Reduction Act gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the opportunity to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for better prices.
Fellow Democrat President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on Tuesday.
As prescription drug prices continue to soar, Tester says there is now a possible solution.
The Inflation Reduction Act is set to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including cancer medication, blood thinners and insulin for millions of Americans.
"How?" Tester asked. "By requiring Medicare to use its purchasing power to negotiate fair prices for prescription drugs for seniors."
The bill also caps out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 per year starting in 2025. And a $35 cap to the cost of insulin starts next year.
"Insulin hasn't changed much over the last 50 or 100 years," Tester said. "And people shouldn't be getting dinged when really this isn't a new cancer-treating drug. This is insulin. It's been around for 100 years."
Starting in 2026, price reductions will be seen on 10 Medicare negotiated drugs, followed by many more in 2027, '28 and '29.
"Sixty million Americans are on Medicare, 46 million of them have prescription medicine," said Margie MacDonald, Big Sky 55 board member.
"No one should have to choose between the cost of a vial of insulin or pin and the cost of food, utilities, gas anything," said Lisa Ranes, Billings Clinic Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism Center manager.
"This act is affecting virtually everybody but seniors in particular," said Kathie Burke, Montana Alzheimer's & Dementia Work Group member.
Republicans say the bill won't do achieve what proponents say it will.
"For a so-called prescription drug bill that will result in fewer life-saving medicines and higher prices for the new cures, that are invented," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ken./U.S. Senate Minority Leader.
Nevertheless, the bill passed in early August along party lines.
"This is inflation situation, which is likely to lead next to a recession because the Fed will end up raising interest rates," McConnell said.
"The fact that you have the pay down the dollars, the fact that this does this for healthcare, I think as it gets fully implemented, it'll have more and more of an inflation impact," Tester said.