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IRA passage: Older Wisconsinites to see prescription drug cost relief

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Sweeping legislation approved by Congress is designed to address a range of issues, including climate change and deficit reductions. Other components tackle skyrocketing medication costs, and Wisconsin advocates say older residents will see benefits.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which cleared its final Congressional hurdle last week, allows Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices, while capping out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries at two-thousand dollars each year.

Lisa Lamkins, advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, said it will bring relief to individuals around the state.

"We hear everyday stories from our members about the measures that they are taking to try to stay alive when they cannot afford the cost of their drugs," said Lamkins, "folks who skipped doses or cut their pills in half."

She said it's important to know this can help with drugs seniors take on a long-term basis to address chronic health conditions.

The provisions saw heavy resistance from the pharmaceutical industry groups, who argue it will result in unintended consequences, such as a decline in drug innovation.

But Lamkins contended the industry is focused on maintaining the status-quo, while noting the concerns about innovation are overblown.

"The Congressional Budget Office, and they're the sort of nonpartisan scorekeeper of legislation," said Lamkins, "has estimated that only two fewer drugs out of an estimated 400 drugs that would come out over the market in the next 10 years. There would only be two less drugs."

Some elements will take effect next year, including caps on insulin co-pays for Medicare recipients, as well as no-cost vaccines for certain diseases. Other provisions will be phased in or need to be sorted out in the next few years.

Either way, Lamkins said she feels like advocates have taken a major step.

"For the first time we are actually on the cusp of delivering real relief to people," said Lamkins.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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