Central Wisconsin residents voice high prescription drug price concerns

Central Wisconsin residents voice concerns over high prescription drug prices to Sen. Tammy Baldwin. (WSAW photo)

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- Republicans and democrats agree that the cost of prescription drugs is too high. Yet legislation to lower those costs haven't made much movement in Congress.

That's why central Wisconsin residents got a chance to voice their concerns to democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin on Monday, at the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Portage County in Stevens Point.

It was a common theme for many people there who spoke during the round-table discussion.

"They're too high. Manufacturers seem to have unlimited ability to control their prices," said Bernie Coulthurst of Amherst.

For Pam Bannister, who lives in Wausau, she was shocked to learn that two of her mother's prescription drugs that are $15, had skyrocketed to $700.

"My mom hit the Medicare 'donut hole' last year," Bannister said. "I guess I just never realized the mark-up and now how much they are without the senior care."

Sen. Baldwin wants to take those thoughts back to Washington D.C., where she said bipartisan legislation to lower those costs aren't going anywhere.

"These should be at the center of our attention, the center of our focus," Baldwin expressed. "Frankly there's been a lot of attention on other things politically."

The bipartisan bill she's introduced, called the FAIR Drug Pricing Act requires pharmaceutical companies to justify price increases.

"Until we get the facts and shine light on it, we're going to see I think corruption," Baldwin added.

Her bill is included in the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. That piece of legislation establishes a fair price negotiation program, protects the Medicare program from excessive price increases and establishes an out-of-pocket maximum for Medicare Part D enrollees.

Back in December, House democrats passed that bill, but it has not made its way to the Senate Floor.

Now residents are hoping change comes soon when it comes to life-saving prescriptions.

"I know of several people that only use one dose per day rather than two as prescribed, because the co-pay is so high," said Coulthurst.

Lowering the price of prescription drugs has been a top priority for President Donald Trump. His fiscal 2021 budget proposal includes a $135 billion allowance for drug pricing proposals over a decade.

But Sen. Baldwin said while there have been promises around this, we haven't seen the prices of prescription drugs go down or level off.

"There are many bold ideas that could make a difference tomorrow, if we work together," Baldwin said.