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Prescription drug prices are going up. What's being done to help Nevadans paying more?

insulin
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File
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FILE - A patient holds a vial of insulin during a news conference outside the Olde Walkersville Pharmacy, July 28, 2019, in Windsor, Canada. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Nearly one in four Americans struggle to pay for the prescription medications they rely on, according to the White House. This is especially true for seniors on Medicaid.  

Lawmakers know it’s an issue a lot of people are worried about. The debate is what to do about it. Can the costs be a lot lower than they are? 

Wednesday is the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. And now, lawmakers are looking at the Build Back Better bill, and seeing if this is the answer to lower prescription costs.  

"We need to put some limitations on what they [drug companies] can charge," said Congresswoman Dina Titus. "You especially see this in the area of insulin. Insulin costs very little to make. And yet the markup on it, when they sell it to people, is astronomical."

The Build Back Better bill in part would allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, as the VA does, according to Titus. She said this plan has wide support.

"You know, 88% of Americans, including 77% of Republicans, support this provision, allowing Medicare to negotiate for drug costs, it just makes good sense. And if you look at my own district here in Southern Nevada, 90% of voters in this district support that," Titus said.

Marjorie Kinney, a Nevadan with diabetes, said she's able to stretch her medication and use coupons, but that's not the scenario for many in need of expensive medications. 

"You have to have access to a computer. And you download it and you take it into the pharmacy. My pharmacist told me it's iffy, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't," she said.

"Do I pick up my prescriptions? Do I pay my rent on time?" said Jamie Tadrzynski said. "I've had nights where I have not gone grocery shopping, because I can't afford to pick up medications, pay rent, pay car insurance and buy groceries."

"I think affordability would look like that $35 cap, if we know that there is a cap on it, and our doctors can work with us and adjust how much we need," said Tadrzynski.

Alexa Sweeney is a social worker who takes an antidepressant. One month of her medication is $456 as there is no generic available.

Without it, "I can barely get out of bed, all the tasks ahead of me for work, I just sit there and I panic, I panic, I can't, I can't get out of my head."

In December, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he wouldn't support the bill. Efforts are being made to adjust it for passage. 

Dina Titus, congresswoman, (D-NV); Majorie Kinney, Nevadan; Alexa Sweeney, Nevadan; Jamie Tadrzynski, Nevadan

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Kristen Kidman is the senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.