Op-ed | Inflation Reduction Act at one year: New Yorkers are already seeing lower health care costs

Independent pharmacies are suffering because of the high cost of prescription drugs.  Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Living and working in a Brooklyn neighborhood where many people are living paycheck to paycheck, I know how tough it can be to access the quality healthcare that we all deserve.

I work as a Licensed Practical Nurse at a safety net hospital in eastern Brooklyn. As an 1199SEIU union delegate, I hear stories day in and day out about people coming into the emergency room or clinics with uncontrolled diabetes.

This revolving door of care where people are being forced to seek emergency treatment is a direct result of out-of-control prescription costs. If the insulin testing strips were more affordable in the community, people would be able to control their own diabetes at home and would not need to come to the hospital.

My union, 1199SEIU, is the largest healthcare union in the country. We have been working closely with leaders in New York State to help shore up our healthcare system. For many years, we had to do this in the face of attacks on the Affordable Care Act from MAGA Republicans in Washington.

Thanks to the work of President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Democrats in Congress, we finally have a federal partner in this fight. Aug. 16 marked the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, a historic law that lowers prescription drug and health coverage costs for millions of people in America.

The law lowers health care premiums for people who buy their own coverage by $2,400 on average, caps insulin costs for people on Medicare, and penalizes big drug companies for egregious price hikes, which is already helping New Yorkers. Already, nearly 119,000 New Yorkers are saving an average of $362 on monthly health insurance premiums.

This is just the beginning. Soon, seniors will see their drug costs capped at $2,000 annually. Medicare will finally be able to negotiate lower drug prices, and on Tuesday, the Biden administration will announce which ten drugs are selected for the first round of price negotiations. In 2025, more than one million New Yorkers will save an average $389.63 thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act’s annual out-of-pocket cost cap.

In celebration of these achievements, I recently joined Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour for stops across New York – proudly standing alongside my fellow 1199ers, and elected representatives including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, state senators, and every day New Yorkers who are struggling to get by – to spotlight how these important changes are already driving down health care costs by thousands of dollars a year.

I’m proud Sens. Chuck Schumer and Gillibrand helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act, and that Congressman Pat Ryan and the Democrats in New York’s Congressional Delegation are supporting President Biden as the administration takes action to eliminate surprise medical bills and expand protections for people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, cancer, and diabetes.

Unfortunately, big drug companies and their Republican allies in Congress are set on sabotaging this monumental progress in order to protect their outrageous profits over people. After spending more than $100 million on lobbying to kill the Inflation Reduction Act, drug companies are suing the federal government to try to take away Medicare’s power to negotiate drug prices.

While Americans are cutting pills and skipping doses, drug companies are claiming their industry should be exempt from negotiating with Medicare and they should continue to be allowed to overcharge seniors and have taxpayers pad their sky-high profits. This is insulting to the New Yorkers and all American patients who pay up to four times more for the same drugs as patients in other wealthy countries.

At the same time, not only did Republicans unanimously oppose the Inflation Reduction Act, but they are now ramping up their war on health care by introducing legislation to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act’s measures to lower prescription drug costs, and introducing plans to slash Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. Republicans in Congress recently passed a bill to promote junk plans that can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

We can’t afford to roll back this progress. Let’s make sure that New York and our country remain healthy and strong by electing fighters who will protect our care in Congress, protect our democracy, and protect our government that cares for its people.

Nicole Frith is an 1199SEIU Delegate and Licensed Practical Nurse at a safety net hospital in eastern Brooklyn.