Illinois residents will save millions of dollars in costs for medications under a new federal law, officials said during an event in Aurora Monday.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, made that point during a round table discussion with area public health officials. With him was U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the Democratic House Whip, and both were touting the Inflation Reduction Act, championed by President Joe Biden, as the reason for the savings.
“The U.S pays twice as much for health care and gets less for it,” said Foster. “A lot of that is drug costs. It’s a huge problem.”
Foster said with the Inflation Reduction Act, 19 million Americans will save money on medication by 2025. An information sheet from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said 598,000 Illinois residents will save an average of $433 a year on prescription drugs, a total of almost $259 million.
Clark said that part of the Inflation Reduction Act’s “power is it’s making sure people don’t have to make these choices between putting food on the table and getting medication they need.”
The round table was held at the offices of VNA Health Care of Aurora, the Chicago suburbs largest community health care provider serving low-income and disadvantaged communities.
Linnea Windel, president and CEO of VNA Health Care, said the Inflation Reduction Act has “helped support our work.”
“It’s had a tremendous impact on peoples’ lives,” she said.
The round table was a bit of a mutual admiration society – public health officials thanking Foster and Clark for the new law, and the members of Congress thanking public health officials for the work they do in their communities.
Kara Murphy, president of the DuPage Health Coalition, said specifically the new federal law expands coverage for vaccinations, removing the co-pay as one of the obstacles toward getting people vaccinated.
She also said the new law allows people to spread out the $2,000 out-of-pocket cap (for people who are not in low- income categories) to give them more flexibility on how to pay for medication.
Dr. Harish Bhansolin, of the coalition, said the new lower costs for medications “completely changes the conversations I have with my patients.”
“As these things go into effect, five, 10 years from now, we will see people much healthier,” he said.
One of the changes the new act makes is allowing the U.S. government to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies. President Biden is supposed to announce Tuesday a list of the first 10 drugs Medicare will negotiate on.
One of those could be insulin, which Murphy said can cost as much as $675 to $700 a month. The new law caps a month’s supply of each covered insulin at $35 for people with Medicare.
Bhansolin said it would be “great” to get that on the list, and said anti-coagulants, which are used to treat heart-related diseases, and inhalers would be good to be on the list because they have “a high usage.”
Some of the panel members had their own horror stories of drug costs.
Selma D’Souza, of the Illinois Department of Aging, said her 91-year-old father was forced to get a sleeping pill prescribed at twice the dosage he needed, because it was cheaper.
State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, talked about her own battle with medication costs when she had a stroke about a year ago. She praised Foster and Clark as “people will fight for equality for health insurance and medical prescriptions.”