Health Care

Trump's health secretary meets with Miami patients who can't afford prescription drugs

With one of the nation's largest Medicare populations, South Florida is home to thousands of seniors who struggle to afford their prescription drugs — precisely the audience that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wanted to meet with in Miami on Tuesday.

Azar's meeting with Medicare beneficiaries and other patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital was closed to the press. But the nation's top healthcare official spoke with reporters afterward to promote the Trump administration's strategy for reducing drug prices.

Though President Donald Trump has said he expects major drug companies to slash prices soon, Azar said discounting medications is easier said than done because — unlike in a typical free market system — lowering prices can put pharmaceutical manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage.

"This is how crazy our system of drug pricing is in the country," Azar said. "Everybody in the system makes more money with a higher list price, except, of course, for the patient."

Among the Trump administration's strategies for lowering prices is a so-called drug dashboard that reports list prices Medicare and Medicaid pay for prescription medications, increasing transparency for patients. Azar said the White House also wants to drive competition by allowing more branded and generic drugs.

"The more drugs that are out there," he said, "the lower the prices are going to be."