Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, walks to the chamber Tuesday after a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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Did people know Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices? Every year, Medicare spends more than $150 billion on prescription drugs, yet it is prohibited from negotiating with drug companies to get lower prices. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has the power to negotiate prescription drug pricing. In fact, a 2020 Government Accounting Office study found the VA’s prices were 68 percent lower than Medicare prices for 203 generic drugs and 49 percent lower for 196 brand-name drugs. The “Build Back Better” legislation had dropped the provision that would have given Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices. This provision would not only have reduced costs for those taking prescription drugs but also for all taxpayers (a different drug price agreement emerged this week).

It’s no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry spent millions to stop policies like this plan. Americans pay more for prescription drugs than do citizens in many other countries. These high costs force many Mainers to choose between purchasing medication or food and too many skip the medications they need to stay as healthy as possible. Additionally, one reason Maine retirees face such crippling expenses is that Medicare has no cap on out-of-pocket costs that Medicare Part D beneficiaries pay. Savings from negotiating prices could put $16 billion or more back into our communities.

No one should have to choose between buying medicine and paying for food or rent. I urge local residents to contact Rep. Jared Golden and leave a message asking him to vote to support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Karen Campbell

Bangor