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September 2019

Drug Pricing Update – Nothing Moving For Now

Washington Watch

 

If you listen to the Trump administration, you’d think they had already slashed prescription drug costs by allowing the importation of lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada. But what they actually announced recently was simply a plan to make a plan. The administration is considering starting a lengthy rule-making process that might eventually lead to some pilot projects that could move toward the importation of some lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada.

 

If that sounds like a big announcement about something that may or may not happen down the road, it is. So far, however, on something that would particularly benefit patients, there isn’t much to show for it. Meanwhile, the administration has abandoned two of its other aggressively-promoted solutions to lower drug prices.

 

The numbers are simply staggering.

 

Rhetorically at least, President Trump has made lowering drug prices a top priority since he was elected in 2016, and it remains a potent campaign issue in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. He has ramped up pressure on advisers to deliver wins on the issue, which consistently polls as a top voter concern.

 

What’s missing is a workable solution.

 

On Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been debating legislation that would allow importation of drugs to obtain cheaper prices, and other measures to try to rein in costs. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that oversees Medicare, is a longtime supporter. He and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have a bill to facilitate importation of lower cost drugs from Canada. Several major drug price-related proposals are still being worked out and Senate lawmakers appear to be pushing for one sweeping bill in the fall. The House is also working on legislation that would reverse current law and give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices.

 

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How Some Key Elements of the Tax Reform Bill May Affect Seniors

 

The long awaited, hotly debated tax reform bill finally passed and was signed into law on December 22. During the months of debate between the House and Senate versions of the bill, there was a lot of confusion about what was proposed, what was eliminated, and what made the final cut. The IRS even published the changes that were anticipated and relied upon, but are now changed.

 

Known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), it affects most everyone in various ways. Here are several parts of the final bill that will affect everyone who files tax returns, and some that will affect seniors more than most.

 

Personal and dependency exemptions and standard deductions.

 

Beginning in 2018 there is no such thing as a personal and dependency exemption, as these are eliminated. (In 2017 these exemptions were $4,050.) Standard deductions nearly doubled. They are:

  • $12,000 for singles (up from $6,350 in 2017)

 

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