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Vermonter begs Congress to crackdown on pricey prescriptions

Senate hearing Tuesday addressed the millions of Americans balancing their need for life-saving medication and their checkbooks.
Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 4:10 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Elia Spates’ favorite day of the year is just around the corner. It’s not Easter, or baseball’s opening day, but whenever day she meets her annual insurance deductible

“It’s typically sometime in the end of March, mid-April,” Spates said.

Tuesday, Spates, a Type 1 diabetic, painted a picture for lawmakers of what it’s like to rely on insulin.

It’s a 100-year-old drug but its cost rose about 1200% in the 23 years since her diagnosis, squeezing family finances and creating painful choices.

A decade ago, she, like so many Americans, tried to stretch her meds to stretch a buck.

“It ended up with me being found unresponsive one morning and my family having to pick up the pieces,” Spates said. “For me, those were the wake-up calls.”

A recent report by the Rand Corporation found Americans like Spates pay nearly three times as much for prescription drugs as their peers in other Western nations.

Calls for reform are popular on Capitol Hill but consensus often cracks when lawmakers debate specific solutions.

“I hope Democrats and Republicans can find common ground,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

Proposals for capping the cost of drugs range from cutting out middle-men or letting the government negotiate prices to re-imagining the entire health care system.

“Bottom line is, we’ve been talking about this issue for decades, it is time to act,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

A laundry list of proposed changes aimed at cutting prescription drugs costs passed the Democratically-controlled House a little more than a year ago but stalled in the Republican Senate.

Democrats control both chambers and the White House now but will still need to secure bipartisan support to have any chance at getting those reforms signed into law.

Following the hearing, Washington Bureau Kyle Midura caught up with Sen. Sanders to discuss whether significant reform stands a real chance of getting through this Congress. You can find a lightly edited video of their exchange below.

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