Campaign 2016 is in full swing with wall-to-wall coverage of the early primaries and debates on every cable news station. And the American Hospital Association is seizing the opportunity to make sure the concerns of patients and America’s hospitals are heard. On the front burner: escalating drug prices.
Recent data show that prescription drug costs are rising rapidly — the annual rate of increase in national spending on drugs accelerated from 2.5 percent in 2013 to 12.6 percent in 2014. Costs of specific drugs have increased even more dramatically. Some common generic drugs also have experienced dramatic price increases in recent years, leading to significant financial challenges for patients and their providers.
Hospitals’ top priority is providing patients with safe and effective care, but the skyrocketing costs of some drugs can make doing so difficult. The high cost of prescription drugs leads to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients, who then may be unable to afford their medications. This may cause them to require further health care interventions — interventions that would have been avoidable if they had been able to follow the original prescriptions.
Patients aren’t the only ones suffering the effects of higher prices — taxpayers are also hurting. Because of the way Medicare pays for many drugs, increasing the base price means higher costs to the Medicare program.
No one wants to discourage innovation in the production of new, breakthrough medications that will improve lives. Hospitals, though, are working hard to hold costs down. The same should be expected from the drug sector. The only ones who benefit from these unsustainable drug prices are pharmaceutical companies.
That’s why the AHA is bringing attention to the issue through ads in states with early primaries in conjunction with the local state hospital associations. These ads — appearing in airports, on billboards and in local newspapers — highlight the recent spikes in prescription drug prices and urge voters to ask the presidential candidates what they’ll do to rein in the cost of prescription drugs. We also support the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, a coalition including insurers, consumers and hospitals, that is highlighting the impact of rising drug prices, through the coalition's own advertising, social media and op-eds in news outlets across the country. We’ve reached out to each presidential campaign to share the field's concerns and priorities in this area.
We also continue to highlight the incredible work hospitals are doing in communities across America every day. We’ll be talking to the political parties as they shape their platforms to ensure that access to care is protected. In addition, we’ll provide resources for hospitals to help them encourage their employees to register and vote, as well as resources to help hospital leaders talk to the eventual presidential candidates and those running for Congress about the issues and their impact on the health of their communities. Watch www.aha.org this spring for more.
Tom Nickels is executive vice president, government relations and public policy, for the American Hospital Association.