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David Jacobsen: Health care proposals mean higher costs for Florida retirees

When health care costs go up, retirees — many of them living on fixed incomes — feel it most.

When health care costs go up, retirees — many of them living on fixed incomes — feel it most.

The people who put in the work to keep Florida running — road workers, child protective investigators, bridge inspectors, health inspectors, social workers and counselors, maintenance workers — are now struggling with ever-increasing health care costs.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is proud to represent the people who served our Florida communities so well for so long. Our members are the backbone of the State of Florida, and they deserve peace of mind when it comes to their health care. Instead, many are facing skyrocketing prescription drug costs.

While we appreciate that our elected leaders in Tallahassee are making an effort to combat this growing crisis, the proposals they’ve put forward so far would, unfortunately, do more harm than good.

State Sen. Bill Wright recently introduced SB 1338; a bill he says will combat high drug prices. But this bill does nothing to hold Big Pharma companies — who have raised the price of nearly 2,200 drugs already this year — accountable for the eye-popping price increases we’ve seen on prescriptions like insulin.

Instead, it strips away the negotiating power of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), patient advocates that go toe to toe with Big Pharma and deliver savings for Florida families.

The bill weakens PBMs’ ability to negotiate on our behalf, leading to higher out-of-pocket costs for the many retirees we represent. When you’re living on a fixed income, even one prescription cost increase can mean hard choices — and no one should have to choose between the medicines they need to stay healthy and putting food on the table.

That’s why it’s so important for our retirees to have the negotiating power of PBMs on their side. It’s estimated that PBMs will save Florida patients and health care programs more than $43 billion in the next 10 years.

AFSCME retirees receive a health insurance subsidy, but it can’t keep up with what seems like never-ending health care cost increases. This year, the state increased my health care premium by $31 per month — that’s almost $375 annually!

We’re happy our state legislators are looking for solutions to the issue of high drug prices and increasing health care costs. But attacking PBMs is not the solution — it’s actually another problem that will only lead to higher health care costs shifted on to our members, who already have had to deal with decades of stagnant wages and the rising cost of living.

AFSCME retirees supported Florida’s essential infrastructure while they were working, and now we need to support them in their retirement. Our elected officials in Florida must make the right decision when it comes to addressing prescription drug costs. And the right decision is to vote no on SB 1338.

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David Jacobsen is the president of the Florida AFSCME Retiree Chapter 79 as well as president of Northwest Florida Subchapter 43. Jacobsen remains driven to get the word out about candidates who are allies of workers; about protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and pensions; and about issues that matter to working families.

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