Citizen Action Statement on Introduction of National Prescription Drug Reform (H.R. 3)


For Immediate Release: September 19, 2019
Contact: Robert Kraig, robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org, (414) 322-5324

Citizen Action Statement on Introduction of National Prescription Drug Reform (H.R. 3)

photo by: www.weisspaarz.com.

Milwaukee: Today U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a bold new proposal to curb prescription medicine prices through negotiations, new penalties for non-compliant drug companies and international price indexing. Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig made the following statement in response to the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) announcement:

“We’ve heard a lot of promises from politicians about lowering drug prices, but so far there’s been limited meaningful action at the Federal level. Speaker Pelosi’s H.R. 3 is a major step in the right direction. It would require prescription drug corporations to actually negotiate drug prices with government or pay a penalty. The proposal also levels the playing field between the cost of medicines in the United States and other comparable nations, where people pay much less for the same drugs. While it doesn’t solve every problem, this bill is great news for millions of people in our state and around the country who struggle to afford medicine because the drug corporations have kept prices high and put medicine out of reach for patients. Every lawmaker in Congress should stand up in support of this critical first step to comprehensive prescription drug reform.”

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Highlighting the Human Face of BadgerCare Expansion

For months now, Citizen Action of Wisconsin has been fighting for BadgerCare expansion. And although expansion did not happen in the budget, we are not done fighting. 

Earlier this summer, Governor Tony Evers, Senator Jon Erpenbach, and Representative Daniel Riemer introduced BadgerCare expansion legislation. We are under no illusion that the bill’s path forward will be easy. So far, Republican legislators have been unwilling to publicly support expansion, even if they are open to the idea. That is why we are redoubling our efforts to highlight the real-life consequences of failing to expand BadgerCare, and the ways in which our neighbors and community would benefit from expansion.

At Citizen Action, we know that the way to move hearts and minds on this important issue is to put the human faces of BadgerCare expansion front and center. Take, for example, the story of our Co-Op Organizer Noah Reif. When the expansion bill was introduced in August, Noah told us her story and explained why she supports expansion: 

“BadgerCare expansion would mean almost 1,400 hard-working Eau Claire County residents would be eligible to receive quality, affordable care. As an individual, I benefited from state health insurance plans when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 2 years old. Simply put, I would not be here if not for Wisconsin’s investment in me and my family. BadgerCare expansion is an opportunity to extend that life-saving investment to other people like me who need it.”

If you have a health care experience that you would like to share with us, please reach out to our organizer Mireya Mercado at Mireya@citizenactionwi.org

Here are some of the ways that BadgerCare expansion would help Wisconsinites:

  • Improve access to preventative care and save lives: Reducing the number of people without insurance means more people can receive preventative care. Not only does this make our health care system more effective and affordable for everyone, but it helps prevent unnecessary deaths – especially those caused by disease, accidents, injuries, and drug abuse.
  • Reduce insurance coverage disparities: The Affordable Care Act cause significant gains in health care coverage among Wisconsinites. However, significant racial disparities in coverage still exist in our state. For example, Latinx Wisconsinites are uninsured at rates three times higher than the state’s White residents. Expanding BadgerCare eligibility to 138% of the Federal Poverty line would go a long way in reducing this disparity.
  • Improve health care coverage for children: When Scott Walker forced tens of thousands of parents off BadgerCare in 2014, the number of uninsured children living above the poverty level increased sharply. Wisconsin was once a national leader in insuring children. With BadgerCare expansion and an investment in children and families, we could be again.
  • Prevent financial hardships for low-income, working adults and families: The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that over 80,000 additional adults would be covered by BadgerCare if the program were expanded up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line. Many of the individuals who would benefit from expansion are eligible for marketplace or employer-sponsored insurance under the current system, but cannot afford the premiums, deductibles, or copays of the plans available to them. Every day, people are forced to choose between paying for health care coverage, or necessities like food, housing, and other bills. Choosing health care over other needs can be a terrible financial burden. Expanding BadgerCare would help ease that burden for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.

We believe that everyone in Wisconsin ought to receive and be able to afford high-quality health care when they need it. We also know that many people in our community face tremendous barriers to receiving the health care they deserve. At Citizen Action, we are working hard to elevate the needs and voices of those individuals. 

If, like us, you believe that health care is a human right and you want to help us put a human face on this issue, please consider joining one of our Organizing Co-ops.

Lower Drug Prices Now!

Prescription drugs are integral to our health care system and most medical treatments. People across Wisconsin depend on prescription drugs, whether in their everyday lives or for lifesaving treatments. And yet, recent years have seen the prices of many prescription drugs skyrocket. Prescription drug prices jumped 10.5 percent over in just the first six months of 2019–an increase four times greater than inflation.

High prices put essential drugs out of reach for many Americans. Nearly three-in-ten people in the United States report not taking medicine as prescribed because of the cost. This includes not filling a prescription, taking an inappropriate alternative treatment, and cutting pills in half or skipping doses.  

Furthermore, an estimated quarter of people with diabetes lower or skip doses because they cannot afford the insulin that keeps them alive. 

The consequences of these actions are dire. Nationally, lack of medication adherence accounts for up to half of all treatment failures and one-quarter of hospital and nursing home admissions.

While cost of the four most popular types of insulin tripled within a decade and forced patients to ration care, Eli Lily–the nation’s largest insulin producer–continued to reap billions of dollars in revenue. In 2018 alone, Eli Lilly brought in $9 billion in revenue from their diabetes medication while paying $0 in federal income taxes under the Trump tax law.

Drug companies are more interested in preserving their profits and monopoly power than our health and well-being. Drug companies spent $172 million on lobbying in 2018–more than any other industry–to protect their monopolies and protect their power to dictate prices. In fact, Trump’s new North American Free Trade Agreement deal (NAFTA 2.0) could raise drug prices on many widely used drugs, including vaccines and some newer cancer treatments, by preventing competition from generic drugs and handcuffing Congress’ ability to enact policies to reduce prices.

Prescription drug companies often justify their soaring prices with claims that investment in new, life-saving medicines costs money. But that claim is false. Big Pharma companies spend far more on marketing than they do on research and development. Instead, it is taxpayers like us who fund the development of new drugs. Taxpayer-funded research through National Institutes of Health contributed to every one of the 210 drugs approved between 2010 and 2016, and the U.S. federal government is the world’s largest funder of biomedical research. 

Yet, many Americans cannot afford the life-saving medicine their tax dollars help to develop. 

That’s why Citizen Action of Wisconsin is a proud member of the national Lower Drug Prices Now campaign. The campaign demands that Congress put people over Pharma profits by adopting comprehensive reform of the pharmaceutical industry. 

If you want to join our fight against Big Pharma, join your local Citizen Action of Wisconsin co-op!

Wisconsin’s Caregiver Crisis

Between 2016 and 2026, the direct care workforce will grow more than any single occupation in the country, and more than 7.8 million direct care job openings will need to be filled in the United States. In Wisconsin, the number of Home Health Aide and Personal Care Aide positions are both projected to increase by 30 percent, requiring an additional 21,300 workers.

However, direct care jobs often offer low compensation, no paid leave or guaranteed health care, and minimal training or support. In 2018, the national median hourly wage for a direct care worker was only $11.83, less than $25,000 per year for a full-time worker. But 1 in 3 workers worked only part-time or part-year, making the national median income for direct care workers only $19,100. And, only about half of all caregivers receive health insurance from their employer.

In Wisconsin, the median hourly wages of Home Health and Personal Care workers are only $11.66 and $11.43, respectively.

As a result, many workers leave direct care or choose not to pursue these jobs at all.

Devaluing of these critical positions also reinforces race, class, and gender economic disparities. Of the 4.3 million direct care workers in the United States, 87% are women, 57% are people of color, and 25% are immigrants.

The growing demand for caregiving and poor quality of direct care jobs has created a shortage of care workers and unaffordability of caregiving services. However, the State of Wisconsin can ensure that long-term care services and supports remain affordable and accessible to people who need them through strategic investments. Citizen Action of Wisconsin supports investing in caregivers through:

  • Higher, family-sustaining wages

Many direct care workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. Nationally, low wages are a primary reason cited by direct care workers for leaving these roles—particularly in economically stable times, when candidates for direct care jobs might instead choose to pursue less arduous, better-paying jobs in other industries. Higher wages are needed to attract job-seekers, retain works who would otherwise leave the profession, and improve the financial security of workers.

  • Guaranteed health care coverage

Nationally, fewer than half of direct care workers outside of nursing homes receive health insurance from their employer. Purchasing health insurance on the private market can be cost prohibitive for workers earning less than a living wage. Guaranteed health care coverage would raise the value of direct care professions and help attract and retain workers.

  • Guaranteed paid leave

Guaranteed paid leave for direct care workers would also increase the desirability of these jobs. Care workers would also be able to afford to take time off from work for their own families’ care needs, such as caring for an ailing relative or new child.

  • Pathways for professional development

Career advancement opportunities in direct care enable workers to take on more expansive and satisfying roles, which can reduce turnover and make the job more competitive with other comparable industries. Additionally, some research has found that when direct care workers take on advanced roles, they improve care for clients, reduce unnecessary emergency room visits, and potentially save health care costs. Advanced roles can be created to: aide clients with care coordination and transitions; support clients with complex chronic conditions; assist with clinical observation and reporting; educate clients on health promotion and medication adherence; mentor newly hired aides; and help with entry-level training.

  • Enhanced training and professional support for workers

A well-prepared direct care workforce will ensure that workers have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to succeed in their roles—and that older people and people with disabilities receive high-quality supports. Increased funding for training programs and professional supports from the state can help care workers and agencies feel more respected and valued.

 

If you want to support our work on this important issue, please join one of our organizing co-ops!

 

National data and content from “Workforce Matters: The Direct Care Workforce and State-Based LTSS Social Insurance Programs” by Robert Espinoza, Stephen Campbell, and Kezia Scales, PHI and Caring Across Generations, 2019. Wisconsin data retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on September 4, 2019.