AFSCME retirees celebrate as White House publishes list of drugs facing price cuts

“This is going to be a game-changer for my household and millions of other retirees like me,” AFSCME Illinois Retiree Craig Missel said in the fall of 2022, as he and other AFSCME members shared stories of progress since President Joe Biden took office in 2020.

Missel was describing the changes that came with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Among other things, the IRA promised to make medications more affordable for those receiving Medicare by allowing the price of common drugs under Medicare Part D to be negotiated. Previously, drug companies set the prices.

Now, the Biden-Harris administration has released the names of the first 10 drugs – several of which are taken by millions of Americans each, while others are exorbitantly expensive – that will be subject to price negotiations, eventually saving Medicare recipients billions of dollars. These drugs represent the largest chunk of money the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spends on prescriptions and are used by 9 million Americans.

Included among the 10 drugs are Eliquis, Xarelto, Jardiance and Januvia. In 2022, seniors spent up to  $6,497 in out-of-pocket costs per year for just one of the medications on the list.

For retirees like Mike Woodcox, from Illinois Retiree Chapter 31, subchapter 86, the change is needed, and is further proof that the Biden-Harris administration is living up to its promise to fight for America’s workers – including its retired workers.

“I take several of the medications on the list and our household is going to see a real difference in our pocketbooks when these prices come down,” said Woodcox. “This is also proof that standing with politicians who stand with workers matters.”

The Inflation Reduction Act also puts a $35 monthly cap on the cost of insulin for Medicare recipients.

Ruth Holmes, a member of Illinois Retiree Chapter 31, subchapter 60, expressed frustration that the system has long been rigged against working families in favor of highly profitable drug companies for so long. But she also felt optimistic that things are going to change.

“Having spent a career in public service, I had hoped that I’d be able to enjoy a retirement with dignity,” said Holmes. “But I struggled to afford the costs of the prescriptions I needed. Meanwhile, these drug companies are raking in billions. Now, at least, I’m hopeful that seniors like me will be able to breathe a little easier.”

While retiree Edward Schultz, a member of Illinois Retiree Chapter 31, subchapter 86, celebrated the announcement, he knows that the progress that has been made can be erased if retirees don’t stay vigilant about ensuring that a pro-worker president and pro-worker candidates are elected to office.

“I’m happy to see that these outrageous prices will finally come down,” said Schultz. “But that doesn’t mean I’m resting on my laurels. I know retirees like me will have to work hard to ensure the progress we’ve made doesn’t get erased.”

While the new prescription drug prices will take effect in 2026, drug manufacturers are fighting the change in the courts. However, the Biden-Harris administration will continue to fight for working families.