Tom Perez, a Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Joe Biden, spoke with the Amsterdam News for a Q & A about the Medicare Price Negotiation and the first 10 drugs to be selected for price negotiation. Perez who also serves as Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, previously served as a former Montgomery County, MD Council member and as Secretary of Labor under President Obama.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.                                       

AmNews: Please describe the Medicare price negotiation and the first 10 drugs selected

The Center for Medicare Medicaid services released the first 10 drugs selected for Medicare price negotiation. In plain English here’s what’s been going on. When we established Medicare and the prescription drug benefits, Medicare lacked the legal authority to negotiate on behalf of consumers and so you have a situation that is unique here in the United States where we can’t negotiate on behalf of consumers but around the world they are negotiating lower prices.  So you look at the drug Xarelto and you pay so much more here in the United States than you do elsewhere, and by the way the Department of Veteran Affairs on behalf of our service members has the authority to negotiate lower prices but Medicare and Medicaid didn’t until the inflation reduction act.  

Up to 9 million uh will be able to benefit from the new negotiated drug prices for the first 10 drugs that have been announced. In 2022 alone these nine million seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries spent over 3.4 billion dollars out of pocket on just these 10 drugs. This is what the inflation reduction Act was about. This is about putting the seniors in a better position by negotiating better prices that’s what this is about.  

AmNews: Could you speak about the impact this will have on Black and Brown communities as well as individuals suffering from health disparities? 

Look at the disproportionate number of black people who have diabetes, who have kidney conditions, heart conditions, blood conditions, those disparities are real we have to address them.  The reason this is a big deal for African Americans is because when you look at the 10 drugs that are the subject of negotiation, the first ten that have been chosen, they’re diabetes drugs, they’re drugs for heart conditions, for blood clots, drugs for kidney issues. This is going to put more money in the pockets of all seniors and it’s

going to disproportionately help African Americans because African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the diseases that I just discussed and that’s why this is a big deal and this is a big day and it’s really important for us to get this word out. 

AmNews: What does this mean for families that are secondarily impacted by their family member’s illness?

When you have to decide between food and medicine that’s a decision that nobody should ever have to make, yet that’s a decision that so many people are making across this country right now because the cost of their medication for diabetes or for their heart condition is so expensive and so this is about making life better for people, putting money in your pockets. Health Care should be a right for all and not a privilege for a few and if you can’t afford the health care that’s going to keep you alive well that’s just not who we are as a nation and so I think what this is going to mean for people is  the dignity of life where you are able to have more money in your pocket. These are not luxury drugs. These are not kind of nice to have, these are drugs that are keeping you alive and thriving day in and day out.

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