In this June 15, 2018, file photo, pharmaceuticals are seen in North Andover, Mass. President Joe Biden’s call for authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices has energized Democrats on a politically popular idea they've been pushing for nearly 20 years only to encounter frustration. Credit: Elise Amendola / AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Noël Bonam is the Maine state director for AARP.

The hopeful eyes of seniors all across Maine are focused on Congress right now. Will this finally be the year that the pharmaceutical industry is held accountable for charging Americans the highest prices in the world? It could be. On Friday, the U.S. House is expected to vote on the Inflation Reduction Act, an historic measure that will bring significant relief to seniors who have struggled for way too long to afford the prescription drugs they need to survive.  

For years, AARP has been taking on drug makers, calling on Congress to make prescription drugs more affordable. The Inflation Reduction Act will do just that. It allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, which will help millions of seniors save money on their medications. That, in and of itself, is huge. But the bill also includes significant relief in other ways. There are 262,000 Mainers with Medicare prescription drug plans. All of them will get peace of mind knowing they won’t have to pay more than $2,000 a year out-of-pocket for their medicines or more than $35 a month if they need insulin. The bill would make many vaccines for seniors free, including the shingles vaccine, and it keeps the heat on drug companies by penalizing them if they raise prices for people on Medicare higher than the inflation rate.  

It’s estimated the law will save taxpayers and Medicare hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years by lowering rapidly rising drug prices. This is not only monumental for seniors – it is fiscally responsible for taxpayers. 

Why are these reforms so important? Because drug companies have been hiking their prices on brand-name medications faster than inflation for more than a decade, forcing millions of seniors to choose between paying for groceries and paying for the medicine they need. If the prices for household goods had risen as fast as drug prices over the last 15 years, gas would now cost $12.20 a gallon and milk would be $13 a gallon. We know that the biggest barrier to seniors’ access to the medications they need is high prices. The prescription drug provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are a commonsense solution to help fight inflation. The bill will put money back in seniors’ pockets at a time when they need it the most.  

But the pharmaceutical industry likely isn’t going down without a fight. Drug companies are spending millions of dollars across the country to stop the bill from becoming law. They have dark money groups running false ads trying to scare seniors. We cannot let these tactics win. 

Today, Mainers and millions of other Americans pay three times more for their medications than people in other countries pay for the same drugs. It’s outrageous and unconscionable, and it is way past time for it to stop.  

With the impact of inflation bearing down on all of us, Maine seniors who worked their entire lives, raising families, building this country and giving back to their communities, shouldn’t have to choose between filling a prescription or buying gas and groceries.  

We thank Sen. Angus King for voting for this legislation in the Senate. Now we’re urging our representatives in Congress, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Jared Golden, to stand up to Big Pharma and vote “yes” for the Inflation Reduction Act. Maine’s seniors deserve nothing less.