Letter to the Editor: Inflation Reduction Act lowers healthcare costs and improves access

Published 9:06 pm Saturday, August 27, 2022

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To the Editor:

Rep. Greg Murphy’s August 14th guest opinion, “The Great Medicare Heist,” fails to acknowledge the significant benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act for his constituents struggling with rising out-of-pocket healthcare costs, many of them Medicare beneficiaries on fixed incomes.

Signed into law by President Biden on August 16th, this landmark legislation makes healthcare more accessible and affordable for thousands of North Carolinians. It does so in a number of ways. Specifically, the new law:

  • Empowers Medicare to negotiate the price of certain prescription drugs. Drug companies must pay a penalty when the prices they charge Medicare rise faster than inflation. By lowering the cost of prescription drugs, this provision will benefit North Carolina’s 1,618,819 citizens who get their prescription drugs through Medicare’s Part D prescription drug program. Rep. Murphy parrots arguments by drug manufacturers that this legislation will stifle innovation. However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that it would affect just 1 % of the 1,300 drugs expected to come on the market over the next 30 years. Allowing the Medicare program to negotiate the prices of the most expensive drugs will lower costs for beneficiaries and increase access for low-income seniors who might otherwise be unable to afford their medications. Among the drugs AARP cites as examples of those that would currently qualify for negotiation are Eliquis, Januvia, Xtandi, Myrbetriq and Orencia.
  • Caps annual out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000. An estimated 51,000 Medicare Part D enrollees in North Carolina who experienced out-of-pocket costs over $2,000 in 2021 will now have their prescription drug costs capped at $2,000 per year.
  • Limits insulin copayments for Medicare enrollees to $35 a month. This provision would benefit an estimated 116,335 North Carolinians on Medicare.
  • Provides free vaccines for Medicare beneficiaries. Starting on January 1, 2023, seniors will no longer have to pay a co-payment for a vaccine that is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, such as shingles.
  • Extends the increased federal premium subsidies for health insurance plans purchased on the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. This provision, first included in the American Rescue Plan, helps those under 65 to purchase affordable insurance. According to AARP, this assistance completely covers the costs of premiums for those with the lowest incomes and ensures that no one buying coverage on the exchanges pays more than 8.5 % of their income towards premiums. Approximately 626,000 North Carolinians will save on their monthly health insurance premiums.
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These are just some of the many provisions that will benefit North Carolinians.

All five Democrats representing North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives helped their constituents by voting for the Inflation Reduction Act; all eight Republicans, including Rep. Murphy, voted against it, as did Republican Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. The Inflation Reduction Act is to be applauded for reducing prescription drug costs and making health insurance more affordable. Rep. Murphy did a disservice to his constituents by not supporting these important healthcare benefits.

Dare County deserves better representation in Congress. On November 8, I will be casting my vote for Barbara Gaskins. I hope you will too.

Laura Allendorf