August 7, 2000
Long and Short Term Solutions to the Rising Cost of Prescription Drugs
As a physician, I know how vitally important prescription medications are to senior citizens in Texas and across the nation. Many seniors in my district are struggling to pay for their prescription drugs, which can cost hundreds of dollars or more each month. Seniors on a fixed income often face the dilemma of foregoing other necessities so they can pay for medicines. Older Americans who once relied on Social Security and Medicare to provide funds for their health care now find themselves spending more and more out-of-pocket to cover deductibles and quickly rising drug costs. It is simply not right that we continue to tax Social Security benefits at a time when so many seniors are struggling to pay for needed medicines.
Congress recently has considered different ways to help seniors struggling to pay their prescription drug bills. Unfortunately, nearly every proposal that comes out of Washington involves a new federal program that continues taxing Social Security benefits and misusing the Social Security trust fund, or attempts to lower costs through price-fixing measures which will result in rationing of drugs. Other proposals create government subsidies to insurance or pharmaceutical companies. These plans take control of health care away from the individual and place it in the hands of bureaucrats.
This is why I introduced the "Pharmaceutical Freedom Act" (HR 3636). This legislation ensures that millions of Americans, including seniors, will have access to affordable prescription drugs. My bill makes pharmaceuticals more affordable to seniors by reducing government imposed cost increases and providing seniors a prescription drug tax credit.
The first provision of the "Pharmaceutical Freedom Act" provides senior citizens a tax credit off the top of their taxable income equal to 80% of their prescription drug costs. The tax credit is intended to supplement efforts to reform and strengthen Medicare by ensuring seniors have the ability to use Medicare funds to purchase prescription drugs. I am a strong supporter of strengthening the Medicare system to allow for more choice and consumer control.
My bill also removes needless government barriers to the availability of pharmaceuticals. The key to controlling drug costs is to promote competition, with choices for consumers. However, FDA regulations make it nearly impossible for American consumers to obtain many medicines they need. My bill places the burden on the FDA to demonstrate why an individual should not be permitted to choose prescription drugs for personal use, thereby freeing American consumers to enjoy the benefits of price competition.
Similarly, the Act protects pharmacies from being strangled by federal regulations. More options increase competition, making pharmaceuticals more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans. My legislation protects these pharmacies from needless federal regulations that only serve to increase drug prices and deprive seniors of another means for obtaining medications.
The "Pharmaceutical Freedom Act" provides a long-term, permanent solution to the rising cost of prescription drugs. I also have announced a new program called "Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drugs," which addresses the immediate concerns of seniors in my district. Although it is not widely known, drug companies have programs that offer prescription drugs free of charge to individuals who cannot afford them. My "Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drugs" effort increases awareness of these programs and helps seniors complete paperwork necessary to participate. There are several success stories where people have received their prescriptions free through this program. I decided to make this a district-wide effort, so my office will begin conducting workshops at area senior centers. We will work to help as many seniors as possible find free or affordable prescription drugs.
I believe the combination of the "Pharmaceutical Freedom Act" and my new "Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drug" program will give seniors the short-term relief they need as well as a long-term solution to the serious problem of astronomical prescription drug prices. I am proud to lead the effort in Congress by working to ensure affordable prescription drugs.