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Patricia lives in Orange County, Virginia. She turns 75 this year, and she is on Medicare. Despite her family history with shingles, Patricia was unable to get the shingles vaccine — that was, until the Inflation Reduction Act made it free for hundreds of thousands of Virginia seniors like her.
I’m happy to report that Patricia received her first dose of the shingles vaccine this month. And in the coming weeks, she will receive a second free dose. This vaccine will protect her from an excruciatingly painful condition that affects more than 1 million Americans every year — sometimes causing severe complications for those over 60, who are at the greatest risk of developing the disease.
Patricia has seen the debilitating effects of shingles up close — because her uncle suffered from the disease. She knows how crippling the condition can be. But thanks to the free vaccine provision in the Inflation Reduction Act — which was signed into law last year — she’ll be better protected from getting sick and winding up in the hospital.
I was proud to vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, because I’m already hearing stories about Virginians who can now afford the preventative healthcare they need. And we are already seeing consequential savings and lower healthcare costs for families, small business owners, and seniors across our Commonwealth. One of my top priorities in Congress has been to lower costs for Virginians — and this law is delivering.
I’ve also had many families reach out to my office, sharing their concerns about high insurance premiums at a time of high inflation and high stress. Thankfully, this law is now saving Virginians who buy private insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges an average of $970 in premiums this year. For many families, the amount saved is even higher: for example, a family of four in Spotsylvania County, Virginia (with two parents and two kids) is saving up to $2,800 on their premiums. And for a household with two adults over the age of 60 but not quite 65, who don’t qualify for Medicare, the law saves up to $16,800 in premiums just this year alone.
When it comes to saving Virginians money, perhaps the most far-reaching parts of this law are the reforms made to prescription drug coverage in Medicare. Here in Virginia, Medicare provides coverage to 1.5 million Virginia seniors and people living with disabilities.
For decades, Medicare enrollees struggled to afford prescriptions because of skyrocketing prices. I’ve heard stories firsthand of Virginia seniors rationing medicine, skipping doses, getting into debt to afford prescriptions, taking expensive bus trips to Canada, or just going without them and risking the consequences.
But thankfully, the Inflation Reduction Act ends drug corporations’ monopoly control over the prices of some of the most expensive and most used drugs in Medicare Part D. It gives Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prices. It caps out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000 per year. And it creates penalties for transnational pharmaceutical companies that raise their prices faster than the rate of inflation.
The bill also caps the price of insulin at $35 a month after a decade marked by rising prices that quadrupled out-of-pocket spending in Medicare between 2007 and 2020. A cap on this lifesaving medicine for Medicare enrollees is something we can all celebrate — regardless of political party — and one that I believe we should seek expand, so that Americans of all ages have guaranteed access to affordable insulin.
The Inflation Reduction Act has lowered prescription drug cost and made vaccines free for Virginia’s seniors, like Patricia. For decades, lawmakers in both parties promised to address soaring prices — only to never achieve the momentum necessary to make progress. But last year, we got it done. We held massive pharmaceutical companies accountable, we saved seniors money at the pharmacy counter, and — according to the nonpartisan CBO — we reduced the deficit by $237 billion over the next decade.
As some of my colleagues in Congress look to repeal the changes we’ve made and reverse the cost-savings we’ve seen here in Virginia for seniors like Patricia, I’ll be pushing back against every effort to do so. And I’ll be working with both parties to keep saving Virginians money.