Racial inequity is pervasive within the American health care system, and high prescription drug costs are no exception. Nearly 30 percent of individuals taking prescription medication struggle to afford the cost, with the burden most severely impacting those who make less than $40,000 a year and have medication costs over $100. These factors disproportionately impact Hispanic and Latino individuals, who are more likely to require medications for chronic health conditions, and earn household median incomes nearly $20,000 less than non-Hispanic white counterparts, resulting in reduced ability to pay at the pharmacy counter.
Additionally, Hispanic and Latino individuals are more likely to live in one of the 13 states yet to implement Medicaid expansion, with people of color comprising 60 percent of individuals living in the coverage gap. Overall, more than 19 percent of Hispanic and Latino individuals are uninsured, a rate 2.5 times higher than white Americans. These figures are particularly troubling in light of the fact many prescription drugs disproportionately required by Hispanic and Latino patients experience unrelenting price increases from pharmaceutical companies. From diabetes to hepatitis C, Hispanic and Latino people are forced to pay higher drug costs, with fewer resources. Requiring Hispanic and Latino individuals to make the impossible choice between life saving medications and putting food on the table has had devastating and deadly consequences. For example, while Hispanic and Latino individuals experience hepatitis C at a lower rate than other groups, they are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than white individuals.
We must act now to lower prescription drug prices and end preventable illness. Big Pharma’s profittering knows no bounds. A recent Committee on Oversight and Reform report found that between 2016 and 2020, 14 drug manufacturers spent a whopping $577 billion on stock buybacks and dividends. This figure is $56 billion more than what was spent on research and development over the same period, proving that high drug prices are funding profits, not innovation. Congress must pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), which would provide the federal government necessary power to negotiate prescription drug prices and rein in Big Pharma’s endless greed. Negotiation would save the government and patients nearly $600 billion on prescription drug costs, which could be reinvested to strengthen health care for millions of Americans.
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