Opening Remarks: Senator Carper Fights to Lower the Cost of Prescription Medications for Patients

Senator Carper highlighted the urgent need to hold Pharmacy Benefit Managers accountable during a Senate Finance Committee Markup

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, participated in the committee’s markup of the Modernizing and Ensuring PBM Accountability (MEPA) Act.

The MEPA Act establishes requirements relating to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) under the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Senators Carper and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) offered and passed an amendment from their bipartisan PBM Oversight Act of 2023 on a specific provision that would require practicing physicians and pharmacists who serve on Pharmacy & Therapeutic (P&T) Committees to be independent and free of conflicts of interest with respect to any PBM.

Read Senator Carper’s opening remarks as prepared:

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for holding this markup today, Chairman Wyden and Raking Member Crapo.

We are here to address the issues with the current practices of pharmacy benefit managers, also known as PBMs. This is important to understand as a Member of Congress ensuring transparency in our health care system. It’s equally important for patients to understand the role of PBMs because it directly affects costs patients see at the pharmacy counter.

Far too many Americans are forced to make the impossible decision of choosing between putting food on the table and paying for the medications that they need. As Members of the Finance Committee, we have a responsibility – particularly to families and to seniors – to take on the worst practices by drug pricing middlemen and ensure that patients can afford their prescriptions. 

We are here to work together – Democrats and Republicans – to uncover how PBMs play a role in the increasingly high costs of prescription medications so that patients don’t have to choose between dinner and life-saving medication.

In today’s legislative markup, and in the hearing that we held recently on this topic, I strive keep four important questions in mind: the impact our work has on patients; the impact our work has on increasing transparency; the impact our work has on being good stewards of the government’s budget; and the impact our work has on fostering innovation.

With these four guiding principles and the knowledge we have gained on the role of PBMs, today we have an opportunity to put patients first and bring them back to the forefront of our medical system. And together, we can hold PBMs accountable.

I thank Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Crapo for including in the modified mark the proposal I authored, alongside Senator Grassley, to ensure that there are no conflicts of interests in getting prescription drugs from manufacturers to patients. And I appreciate the Chairman’s commitment to working together to advance the entirety of the PBM Oversight Act as the legislative process continues.

I look forward to taking bipartisan action on these important issues through today’s markup.

Senator Carper has been laser-focused on lowering health care costs and increasing industry transparency:

  • In the 118th Congress, Senator Carper introduced the bipartisan PBM Oversight Act of 2023 with Senator Grassley. This legislation would provide much-needed oversight from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services into the ways PBMs determine which medications are included on the list of covered drugs under a person’s health plan, also known as drug formularies.
    • The legislation would also require that the practicing physician and practicing pharmacist that serve on P&T Committees are independent and free of conflicts of interest with respect to any PBM.
  • Senator Carper also introduced the Share the Savings with Seniors Act with Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to require the total rebate that PBMs receive from manufacturers to be passed on to patients with chronic diseases to lower their cost of medications at the counter.
  • At a recent hearing in the Senate Finance Committee, he highlighted how transparency in the health care industry can drive better outcomes for patients.
  • Senator Carper lead the Insulin Price Reduction Act with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Kevin Kramer (R-N.D.) which would hold PBMs, big pharmaceutical companies, and insurers accountable for surging prices by incentivizing reductions in list prices.
  • Senator Carper cosponsored legislation to require PBMs to disclose and provide information on the rebates negotiated with the drug manufacturers.

Read more about how PBMs and P&T Committees operate here.