Baldwin roundtable addresses rising prescription costs

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Becky Pomeroy was once Trempealeau County’s elder benefits specialist, helping people get signed up for affordable drug plans.

Now, the West Salem woman is the one who needs that same help and conveyed her fears to Tammy Baldwin.

"I have not done my homework yet because I'm afraid – even though I know the tricks. I've sent other people to use the tricks. I'm afraid," she said, during a roundtable discussion at The Local Store in downtown Eau Claire.

Baldwin’s aim Saturday was to take the stories of trouble she heard and see what she can do to help them out.

"This is something that demands our response, demands our action. Certainly we've seen prices of pharmaceuticals go up over time, bur particularly recently there have been some drastic spikes in and prices," Baldwin said to WEAU 13 News on Saturday.

Right now, Pomeroy’s medications run her just over $3,000 a month – close to twice their household income. Baldwin is now hoping the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act will help keep costs affordable by increasing transparency.

"Now is the time for action to hold these pharmaceutical companies accountable, to have them justify if there even is any justification and the package of reforms that I have just introduced, along with a number of my colleagues, are vital in getting us there," Baldwin said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Pomeroy can still afford her medication for the next three months. She said those prices will jump this summer when she turns 65.

While Pomeroy’s short-term hopes for reasonably-priced prescription drugs appears murky, she does have one long-term hope for making overall health care less fearful.

"The long-term would be to get a single-payer health system and get everybody under the same blanket in treat everybody the same and everybody can have health care,” she said. “That would be my long-term."

Lowering the costs for prescription drugs was the topic of roundtable discussion today with Tammy Baldwin, but that wasn't all Wisconsin's junior U.S. senator talked about during a stop Saturday in Eau Claire.

At The Local Store in downtown, Baldwin focused on rising prescription drug prices and touted an act she is trying to push through in the Senate – the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act.

After the hour-long formal discussion, she discussed, among other items, her decision to vote against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"When Neil Gorsuch's nomination was made, I have deep concerns that he has repeatedly sided with big corporations against workers – whether it's workers injured on the job or unfairly dismissed, hasn't stood up for students with disabilities and his record on women's reproductive health care is troubling," Baldwin said Saturday afternoon.

WEAU did receive comment Saturday from Wisconsin’s other U.S. senator – Republican Ron Johnson – on the Gorsuch nomination.

“I appreciate Judge Gorsuch’s willingness to serve our country,” Johnson said through his statement. “I respect his fidelity to the Constitution and his integrity to apply the law as a judge, not a super-legislator. Judge Gorsuch is the kind of mainstream jurist we need on the Supreme Court – someone who will apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. I look forward to supporting his nomination to the Supreme Court.”

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