AMSA Call to Action: Medicare Negotiations are Essential to Make Build Back Better Historic

October 29, 2021

Medicare Negotiations are Essential to Make Build Back Better Historic

AMSA applauds President Biden, House leadership, and the Progressive Caucus for their long-fought effort to bring a robust Build Back Better budget package forward. The Framework announced by the President Thursday, October 28th, was endorsed overwhelmingly by the Progressive Caucus. Biden’s announcement was followed by the release of the legislation text and section-by-section analysis that details significant investments to fight climate change, support children, families and communities, and promote a healthier and more equitable America.

The Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) will help more of our patients live healthier lives, make our communities healthier places to live, and make our lives and work as physicians better and easier. It now includes provisions that:

  • Close the Medicaid coverage gap in US territories and non-Medicaid expansion states while extending ACA subsidies to reduce premiums for people who buy health insurance on their own
  • Expand home care for seniors and people with disabilities, and improve worker pay
  • Add hearing coverage to Medicare
  • Lowers higher education costs
  • Tackle climate change in job producing, meaningful ways

The Build Back Better Act fully pays for all these things, and much more, by closing tax-loopholes and asking the wealthiest Americans, and our most profitable corporations, to pay their fair share. It does not raise taxes on small businesses or anyone who makes less than $400,000 per year.

Over the last few days important provisions like tuition-free community college, Medicare vision and dental coverage, and paid family leave were withdrawn from the bill. AMSA will continue working with allies to secure future funding for these programs. You can see our past statement here. However, the updated bill removed what we believe to be the most important aspect of this historic legislation: to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. This provision, along with reintroducing dental coverage to go along with hearing coverage, must be restored.

At AMSA we believe health care is a right, not a privilege, and we know life-saving medicines only work if patients can afford to take them. We also know the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry in the world, and that large drug-makers could lose $1 trillion in sales and still be the most profitable industry.

The pharmaceutical industry has tried to instill fear in the American public that federal legislative proposals to reduce drug spending would threaten access to innovative life-saving drugs,” said Timothy A. Lash, president of the West Health Policy Center. “West Health and John Hopkins’ findings clearly refute that claim. Large drug-makers are so profitable they could maintain their current investment in R&D – and their standing as the most profitable industry – even if they lose significant revenue.”

For the health of our patients, and our nation, it is essential Congress to use this historic legislation to break pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly to set their own prices, and restore meaningful provisions requiring them to negotiate lower drug prices with Medicare. We can no longer sit back and let these companies cheat the American public out of hundreds of billions of dollars.

AMSA also urges Congress to reintroduce dental coverage to Medicare. Dental care is an essential service that costs individual Medicare users thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket costs. In 2018, there were 9.5 million Medicare beneficiaries unable to access dental, vision, or hearing care with over 70% citing cost. At minimum, Congress must restore dental coverage to the Build Back Better Act to diminish the impact of this financial burden on millions of vulnerable Americans.

What will be in the final legislation is still in play. House members have announced they will be working over the weekend. As they consider further changes to this bill, Congress must not place profits over people and succumb to the wills of big drug companies. Congress must take action to ensure all Americans have affordable access to vital medical services — without Medicare negotiations and expanding dental coverage, millions of Americans will continue to suffer.

Our job now is to lift our voices to our own Congress members. As the future physicians of this country, it is vitally important they hear loud and clear our call to make historic investments in our people, our nation, and our future.

We call on AMSA members and alumni to TAKE ACTION now!

Call your U.S. House Representative & Senators
Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121

Find your own Congress members here
along with their direct DC office phone numbers & official webpages

Don’t delay, voicemail can be left 24/7

Find tips when calling Congress and a short call script here: 
AMSA Take Action: Call Congress Medicare Negotiations are Essential to Build Back Better Historic Investments