The International Pricing Index Would Damage the Health of American Seniors

In recent months, the administration has considered its new proposal that would significantly impact health care coverage options for aging Americans and other Medicare beneficiaries. 

This proposal, called the “International Pricing Index,” is a plan that would arbitrarily set the prices of American medications based on the average price of those medications found in an array of foreign countries, many of which operate under a completely government-controlled standard of price setting. These are countries with health care systems that simply do not offer the same standard of care to mature Americans that our system provides here at home.

The assertion by the administration is that this type of international reference pricing plan would reduce the costs of prescription medications for beneficiaries who rely on the Medicare Part D program for access to their prescription medications. While this may be true on a minute level, the harmful impact it would have on the wide range of medications that beneficiaries currently have access to would far outweigh whatever benefits this proposal may produce. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a study of 16 countries and found that while American cancer patients had access to 95 percent of new cancer medicines, only 55 percent of patients could access the medications in these foreign countries being considered as comparative benchmarks.

But this proposal would not only reduce the types of medications patients can access, it would also insert third-party distributors into the treatment process. Physicians and other members of seniors’ care teams need and deserve the autonomy to work with patients to find the types of drugs that work for their specific conditions in order to provide the most effective care. 

Tying their hands by forcing third-party approval roadblocks into initiating and maintaining care plans could delay or dramatically alter critical courses of treatment. Patients and their doctors work tirelessly to tailor their health care plans and chosen prescription medications in order to best address beneficiaries’ unique health care needs — a system that has and continues to protect the health of patients.

Medicare must not be subjected to these unnecessary changes — changes that would silence the voices of mature Americans nationwide and stunt progress in value-based care that allows our health care system to stay innovative and progress forward. Beneficiaries and their health care teams know what works for them. 

Overly broad, one-size-fits-all drug pricing proposals that model themselves after those in countries with socialized health care systems are not the answer to the issue of rising drug costs. Beneficiaries must be able to continue accessing whichever medications they need, without middlemen interfering in this process and discounting their needs.

Freedom of choice is a critical right that empowers mature Americans to advocate for their access to the health care they deserve, as well as encourages self-reliance and personal accountability. It is critical that the administration realizes that beneficiaries deserve better than a proposal that would force foreign price structures on our already successful Medicare program and dramatically affect the health and well-being of mature Americans for years to come. 


Mark Gibbons is president of RetireSafe, which is dedicated to ensuring that legislative agendas protect the quality of life and economic well-being of older Americans while supporting common-sense solutions to the challenges of the future.

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