CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Critics say prescription drug prices for many have gone up this year and last, even in a pandemic. Now they want Congress to take action to allow Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices with big pharmaceutical companies.

“Hundreds of thousands of West Virginians have chronic conditions like cancer, and diabetes as well as heart disease,” said Lynette Maselli, Protect Our Care WV.

The VA is already allowed to negotiate drug prices for veterans, and that cut the cost. Now advocates want people on Medicare to have the same advantage. Even those who have private insurance say it doesn’t cover everything. Mindy Salango spends $350 a month out-of-pocket for diabetes supplies.

“This is what I use every month to control my diabetes,” said Mindy Salango, Type 1 Diabetic.

The U.S. House already passed the bill HR-3, but it stalled out in the Senate. Meanwhile, the West Virginia Legislature already acted this year, with House Bill 2263. It removed discount bonuses for pharmacy benefit managers, known as PBMs.

“Which basically requires PBMs and insurance companies to pass on drug discounts provided by manufacturers, to the individual patient,” said State Sen. Ron Stollings, M.D., (D) Boone.

The national and state AARP organizations support the Medicare bill now being considered by Congress.

“Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has defended its price structure, saying research and development for new drugs is very expensive. And they can’t keep doing that if they are not profitable,” said Mark Curtis, 59 News Chief Political Reporter.