Prescription Drug Pricing Takes Center Stage in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District
Authors: Jakob Cisco and Lauren Reynolds, President, National Student Advocacy Committee (NSAC). NSAC brings together student advocates across the country to build support for and further Prescription Justice’s legislative and policy agenda to end the crisis of high drug prices. The NSAC authors are proudly responsible for their own content.
Among the battleground elections next month, the 7th congressional district of Pennsylvania is up for grabs. The incumbent Democrat Susan Wild is facing off with Republican Lisa Scheller, and their policies differ on a variety of issues. The candidates are locked into a very close race, and with prescription drug prices as a hot topic in American politics, these candidates are forced to clarify their platforms.
Susan Wild assumed office on January 3, 2019, after promising to push for lower prescription costs for her constituents. In a statement on her website, Wild said, “I am appalled by the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs in our country, and I am committed to stopping the price-gouging of patients.” In 2021, Wild voted in favor of the Build Back Better Act, pushing specifically for Medicare's ability to negotiate drug prices.
In 2022 she voted in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act, and following its passage in the senate said, “this bill addresses many of my concerns but I am deeply disappointed by what happened with capping the price of insulin. So many people depend on insulin to survive.” She was referring to the fact that the insulin cap of $35/month is only for people on Medicare, not the rest of the country.
Overall, Wild upheld her promise to work against big pharma and fight for her constituents' right to affordable medication.
Lisa Scheller, the Republican challenger also claims to prioritize and support lowering prescription drug prices, but prefers a wildly (no pun intended) different path from the one taken under the Inflation Reduction Act. Scheller, a small government Republican, believes that to lower prescription drug costs we need to reduce government regulations in healthcare, allowing interstate insurance protections to promote competition between insurance companies, and importing drugs from other countries, where prescription drugs are far cheaper than in the United States. Prescription Justice also supports drug importation, but alongside other policies including drug price negotiations.
Reducing government regulations in healthcare is a path many Republicans in Congress support. The idea’s central premise is that government regulations only serve to decrease competition in the market, which naturally drives up prices. By reducing government regulations, they argue, competition will drive prices down. The same principle holds for inter-state insurance coverage; if people can receive coverage from other states where prices are cheaper, businesses will be forced to lower prices to stay competitive. This is reinforced by the importation of lower-cost drugs from abroad as a guarantee that drug companies cannot stay in an insulated market.
Drug pricing is a bipartisan issue, and drug importation is a primary example. A 2020 survey of Pennsylvania adults found that half of Pennsylvania’s residents are worried about affording prescription drugs and there is strong support for government action on drug costs across political parties.
In seeking votes, politicians attempt to balance party ideology with the needs of their constituents. In the case of prescription drug pricing, members of Congress and candidates must go further to place the health of Americans above corporate interest, regardless of party.
Even though they come from different sides of the aisle, both of the candidates in Pennsylvania’s 7th District election state strong support for lowering prescription drug costs, albeit in wildly different ways. Voters in Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district should remain vigilant in monitoring the promises made by both candidates, and use their collective voices to urge their representatives to uphold the promises made as they seek office. Hopefully, no matter who is sworn in on January 20th, the American people will be able to achieve a path forward toward more affordable prescription drug prices.