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Conservatives Agree: Restricting Pharmacy Benefits Will Harm Patients, Taxpayers


GOP candidates will soon take the stage for one of the biggest political moments of the year: the first Republican presidential primary debate. From the economy to immigration, the debate promises to showcase a variety of differing policy perspectives. But one issue should prompt broad agreement: the soaring prices of prescription drugs and their impact on everyday Americans.

Many conservative voices are sounding the alarm about the effects of these high prices and the resulting harm of limiting the pharmacy benefits that Americans rely on. There is broad agreement that the consequences of hasty policymaking will unravel the critical cost-saving benefits of pharmacy benefits that protect Americans from high drug prices.

Key highlights that candidates shouldn’t miss, include:

Former Trump official blasts misguided attacks

In an op-ed for The Washington Examiner, Former White House Domestic Policy Advisor Joe Grogan called out attempts to limit Americans’ pharmacy benefits — instead of addressing drug companies’ high prices:

“The result is a mishmash of actions with little consideration for how these proposals might affect healthcare costs, the marketplace, or patients. It is a mockery of the dignified process that patients and taxpayers deserve.”

Grogan continued:

“PBMs exist to negotiate prices with drug companies and manage drug spending for insurers and employers. The work of PBMs generates value exceeding $145 billion … [PBMs are] playing an undervalued role in the modern American economy.”

Republican lawmakers emphasize the importance of the free market

In a recent hearing, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) called out lawmakers for subverting the free market and attempting to restrict Americans’ pharmacy benefits through legislation: 

“Why are [businesses and labor unions] choosing a PBM? Do you think they want higher prices? And if a PBM is gouging, then why don’t they go to another PBM? There’s like 70 some-odd PBMs. And yet we’ve got in our heads somehow, we’re going to forbid this… instead of trying to unravel the complications we put on the market, what we’re asking is to ban certain contracts.”

Similarly, during a House markup, Representative Eric Burlison (R-MO) emphasized the role pharmacy benefits play in lowering costs:

“Within health care, we have completely removed any cost transparency or decision-making from patients. The more that we continue to remove any negotiating ability, the more that the costs are going to go up.

Conservative researchers warn of higher costs

In a commentary piece, Matrix Global Advisors’ Alex Brill further underscored the risks of limiting pharmacy benefits:

Policymaking can have unintended consequences and is often difficult to reverse. In this case, the risks include outcomes that run counter to the broader objective of promoting competition and affordability across the entire pharmaceutical supply chain.”

Ike Brannon, Senior Fellow at the Jack Kemp Foundation, echoed a similar sentiment in a Forbes column, urging lawmakers to scrutinize allthe players in the drug supply chain. Brannon wrote:

“If Congress is intent on reforming how the market functions, looking at only a single actor in the drug supply chain would be a grievous mistake, especially given that the current legislation under consideration will likely be the only chance the body has to address drug prices before the next election. Congress should take the chance to reduce costs for patients, instead of raising them.”

Leading business groups sound the alarm

Influential government groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, urged similar caution in May:

“Given the complexity of health care markets, any hasty or haphazard effort to regulate PBMs likely would have the unintended consequences of limiting competition, harming consumers, and raising prices…”

A health economist predicts billions in cost increases

The University of Chicago’s Casey Mulligan quantified the steep price tag of proposed policies to undermine pharmacy benefits:

“Reducing competition among PBMs, even if unintentional, could cost up to $48 billion per year. These are the risks of disclosure to be weighed against a potential reward of transferring one or two billion dollars annually from PBMs to other market participants.”

Candidates taking the debate stage should understand the role PBMs play in the prescription drug supply chain – and the consequences limiting pharmacy benefits would have on patients, consumers and American taxpayers.

Learn more about PBMs’ crucial role in the marketplace and the cost of limiting PBMs on our website.