- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton is outlining a sweeping plan to hold down the rising cost of prescription drugs and target drug companies that flood the airwaves with ads.

The Democratic presidential candidate said at a forum in Iowa on Tuesday that she wants to protect consumers while promoting innovation and putting an end to profiteering in the pharmaceutical industry.

Her plan would place a monthly cap of $250 on covered out-of-pocket prescription drug costs to help patients with chronic or serious health conditions. It would also deny tax breaks for televised direct-to-consumer advertising and require drug companies that receive taxpayers’ support to invest in research and development.

“It has gotten to the point where people are being asked to pay, not just hundreds but thousands of dollars for a single pill,” Clinton said. “And I can tell you, that is not the way a market is supposed to work. That is bad actors making a fortune off of people’s misfortune.”

Clinton was outlining details of her plan as part of a weeklong push to defend President Barack Obama’s health care law. The former secretary of state has credited the overhaul with driving down the rate of uninsured Americans and chastised Republicans who have sought its repeal.

Clinton said she wants to make sure the law works for everyone. She said she’ll put insurance providers “on notice” that they need to help people afford the medical care that they require.

“Insurance companies have been keeping the savings for themselves and shifting more costs on to families. My plan will address that,” she said.

Clinton’s support for Obama’s controversial health care law is the latest example of her campaign attaching itself to Obama’s record amid a competitive Democratic primary. Also at play is Vice President Joe Biden’s interest in joining the race, though it’s far from certain that he will.

The health care law has been credited with helping reduce the number of uninsured people from 48.6 million in 2010 to 29 million people in the first three months of 2015. A recent poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 72 percent of Americans say the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable.

Clinton’s plan received a chilly reception from the pharmaceutical industry, which said it would restrict patients’ access to medicine.

“Secretary Clinton’s proposal would turn back the clock on medical innovation and halt progress against the diseases that patients fear most,” John Castellani, head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement.

Clinton said she wanted to “both protect consumers and promote innovation, while putting an end to profiteering.”

Republicans accused Clinton of embracing the health care law to draw attention away from inquiries over her use of a private email system as Obama’s secretary of state.

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been paid at least $1.8 million for appearances at events sponsored by pharmaceutical companies or associations representing pharmacy industry interests, according to tax and financial records between 2001 and 2014.

Health care and the rising cost of prescription drugs have gained attention in the Democratic campaign. Clinton’s main challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has pushed the creation of a single-payer health care system and introduced legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and let consumers import prescription medication from Canada, where costs are cheaper.

“The pharmaceutical industry has become a health hazard for the American people,” Sanders said in a statement Tuesday.

As she did during her 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton would seek to allow Medicare to use its large purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. Her plan also seeks to increase competition for traditional generic versions of specialty drugs to drive down prices and offer consumer choice, including allowing people to import foreign drugs.

The proposal would require health insurance plans to place a monthly and annual limit on covered out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for individuals. The campaign estimated that up to 1 million Americans could benefit from the plan annually.

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Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Stephen S. Braun and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

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On Twitter, follow Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC and Catherine Lucey at https://twitter.com/catherine_lucey.

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