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Election 2024 Health Care

DeMarco wastes no time, wants pledges from congressional nominees on prescription drug costs

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) joins Maryland Health Care for All! at a press conference to highlight the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 15, 2023. Vincent DeMarco, the group’s president, is on the right. Photo by Danielle J. Brown.

Right on the heels of the 2024 Maryland primary elections, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative President Vincent DeMarco wants the newly victorious congressional nominees to pledge to lowering drug costs for Maryland and the United States.

DeMarco’s letter starts with a hearty “Congratulations on winning your Primary Election!” and jumps right into his pitch.

On behalf of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, I am writing to urge you to commit to support the life-saving health care access and prescription drug affordability provisions of President Joe Biden’s (D) landmark Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” the letter to congressional candidates says.

A longtime health care advocate in Maryland, one of DeMarco’s current endeavors includes reducing prescription drug costs through various state and federal avenues. He is a major proponent for the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which is currently seeking ways to lower costs of medications for those on the state’s health care plan.

But DeMarco wants to see lower prescription costs across the United States.

“Marylanders need to know where candidates for the US Senate and House of Representative stand on protecting the health care coverage and prescription drug affordability benefits of the landmark Inflation Reduction Act,” DeMarco said in a written statement.

Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, omnibus legislation that impacts a variety of policy arenas such as climate change and job creation. It also contains a few provisions to help reduce costs of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients.

“These changes together will save tens of millions of Americans—including many in Maryland—from the physical and financial pain of expensive drugs, and will save the United States Treasury hundreds of billions of dollars a year,” the letter to congressional nominees says.

Part of the Inflation Reduction Act caps the costs of insulin for Medicare recipients at $35 a month. A similar measure takes effect next year that will limit out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients to $2,000 per year.

The Inflation Reduction Acts also grants the federal government authority to negotiate with drug manufacturers on the costs of certain drugs covered under Medicare.

The IRA only barely passed the United States Congress in 2022 and there are those who would want to  weaken or repeal it,” the letter warns.

PhRMA, pharmaceutical industry lobbying group, challenged the Medicare drug price negotiation process in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. The suit was dismissed in February, according to Axios, though additional legal challenges may follow.

Maryland Health Care for All has set up an online submission form for candidates to send in their responses, which will be open until July 15.

Candidates who sign the pledge promise to “oppose any efforts to weaken the prescription drug affordability provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act.”

The pledge also wants congressional nominees to protect federal health care subsides “that have allowed millions more Americans, including tens of thousands here in Maryland, to be able to afford health care coverage.”

Those subsidies are set to expire in 2025 and candidates signing the pledge also promise to work toward extending them beyond that year.

Despite predictions that some federal races might be too close to call on election night, most of the fall campaigns appeared to come into focus well before midnight, just hours after polls closed at 8 p.m.

Former Gov. Larry Hogan easily won the GOP nomination for Senate, as was widely expected, and appears to be headed to a race against Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who had a comfortable lead over U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) after an expensive and bitter Democratic primary. Alsobrooks and Hogan will compete for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D).

All five House incumbents seeking reelection – Reps. Andy Harris (R-1st), Glenn Ivey (D-4th), Steny Hoyer (D-5th), Kweisi Mfume (D-7th) and Jamie Raskin (D-8th) – were headed to easy victories Tuesday. Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat; Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel); and Democrat April McClain Delaney and former GOP Del. Neil Parrot, appeared to have clinched nominations in the 2nd, 3rd and 6th district races, respectively.

DeMarco’s letter to the congressional candidates promises to “do all we can to make sure Maryland voters know how you stand on this critical issue” based on their responses, or lack thereof, to the letter.

“We will work to make sure that the voters of Maryland know which candidates for the United States Senate and House of Representatives are committed to protecting our hard-won health care gains,” the letter concludes.

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DeMarco wastes no time, wants pledges from congressional nominees on prescription drug costs