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Grassley Receives National MS Society Senator of the Year Award

March 02,2020

Prepared Remarks by U.S.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Chairman, Senate Finance
Committee

National MS Society
Conference

Washington, D.C.

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.

It’s
unacceptable.

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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