Controlling drug prices is essential for small businesses

As small businesses across the country prepare for another possible winter of COVID-19, they suffered an avoidable blow in Washington, DC, this month over significant and much-needed prescription drug reform for their employees. The Build Back Better Act (BBB), which includes key health care and prescription drug reforms that small businesses have long called for, would reduce onerous health care costs, provide relief to consumers and spur growth in the employment and higher wages for employees on Main Streets across America. But now the bill’s uncertain fate throws a new wrench in the gears for small businesses working tirelessly to keep their doors open.

Let’s be clear: small business owners unequivocally want policymakers to act to reduce health care and prescription drug costs. As a medical professional and small business owner, I know that those hurting right now are the entrepreneurs who have repeatedly said that lowering drug prices is a top priority, not the big drug manufacturers.

Rising health care costs have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and small business owners already trying to recover from a myriad of economic challenges are feeling the added burden. According to Small Business for America’s Future most recent survey, small business owners said cutting healthcare and prescription drug costs were their top priorities. And they plan to make their feelings known at the ballot box. Eighty-three percent say congressional action on prescription drug costs will be important in deciding who to vote for in 2022 — 58 percent say it’s very important.

Recently, Grover Norquist wrote an op-ed in this publication describing these proposed reforms as “price controls.” The truth is that Norquist is out of touch with both the reality of the pharmaceutical industry and the provisions of the BBB. The profits of the pharmaceutical industry far outweigh what companies invest in prescription drug innovation and these reforms are reasonable steps to curb predatory pricing. The impacts of this bill coupled with the manufacturer’s ability to set launch prices will have virtually no impact on innovation, with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report the loss of a single new drug in the next decade.

Reform proposals included in the stalled BBB are common-sense measures to combat rising prescription drug costs, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies and capping out-of-pocket drug costs. elderly people on Medicare. the CBO estimates price negotiation alone will save hundreds of billions health care costs and reduce employment-based insurance premiums. This means small business owners can spend less time navigating and paying for rising drug prices and more time growing their business and creating jobs.

The idea that tackling price gouging will cost well-paying American jobs is simply not consistent with reality. In fact, rising health care costs, driven by rising drug costs, have costs the economy jobs and higher wages. These costs limit growth opportunities for businesses, which are forced to make tough decisions due to soaring costs, with small business owners being particularly hard hit. A Small Business Survey for America’s Future As of this fall, more than 2 in 5 small business owners have postponed hiring employees and growing their business, particularly due to rising healthcare and drug prices.

Small business owners are the backbone of the national economy – the engine of economic growth and job creation – and reducing prescription drug costs will allow small business owners to stay competitive with large companies and keep more of their hard-earned profits, which will allow them to grow. The prescription drug pricing reforms proposed in BBB are a reasonable and necessary effort to help reduce drug costs – and they are extremely popular with a large majority of Americans. Congress has an opportunity to pass a very popular reform that would help consumers, seniors and Main Street. It is time to put these interests above big pharma and partisan politics and move quickly to enact long overdue drug reform.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez is CEO and President of South Texas Allergy and Asthma Medical Professionals (STAAMP) and STAAMP Clinical Research, President of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Co-Chair of Small Business for America’s Future.

James V. Hayes