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Jon Queally September 17, 2020 6:07AM (UTC)

This article originally appeared at Common Dreams. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Advocates for lowering drug prices in the United States are raising alarm over an executive order issued by President Donald Trump on Sunday that the White House purports would challenge the nation's pharmaceutical industry but which critics say is just an election year ploy to make it look like the president is finally following through on a 2016 campaign promise he has neglected throughout his term.

The executive order itself would require that the secretary of Health and Human Services to "immediately" explore implementing a payment model for Medicare to pay "no more than the most-favored-nation price," which means the lowest price paid in other developed countries, for specific "high-cost" prescription medicines. While Trump celebrated the order as a far-reaching game-changer, experts said the move will likely have any little if any meaningful impact.

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"The proposed executive order would appear to be of limited immediate effect," reported the Wall Street Journal. "Experts see the order as the administration's effort to show it is taking steps to lower drug pricing, as the president seeks reelection. Drug-pricing experts say that the best way to lower prices under Medicare is to grant the agency the legal authority to directly negotiate prices with drug companies. This measure wouldn't do that."

While much of the reporting on Trump's order focused on how "controversial" the bill was due to its cold reception by the powerful drug industry, Peter Maybarduk, director of the global access to medicines program at Public Citizen, was critical of the order precisely because Big Pharma will likely walk all over it by voicing the kind of challenges it issued upon Trump's announcement on Sunday.

According to Maybarduk, "European countries pay less because they negotiate and set basic disciplines on the prices that drug monopolists can charge. A direct way to lower medicine prices in the U.S. would be to give Medicare negotiation powers, as candidate Trump pledged back in 2016."

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As NPR reports:

The new executive order repeals the original and expands the drugs covered by Trump's proposed "most favored nations" pricing scheme to include both Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D. The idea is that Medicare would refuse to pay more for drugs than the lower prices paid by other developed nations.

"It is unacceptable that Americans pay more for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same places," the executive order declares.

Maybarduk warned in a tweet that the pharmaceutical industry "isn't going to suddenly start playing ball. Pharma will challenge rules that come out of the order. Also, the EO indicates what USG should pay, but does not appear to regulate what corporations charge."

"This is a massive win for the drug industry and another broken drug pricing promise by President Trump," said Eli Zupnick, spokesman for Accountable Pharma, in a statement Monday. "The drug industry is going to act like this weak executive order is a horrific injustice but the reality is that they were wildly successful in lobbying their former colleagues in the Administration to delay and water down this executive order to the point where it almost certainly won't save a single American a single penny on their prescription drugs."

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Other critics of the move said it reeked of election year politics, with some suggesting that it should do more to expose how little Trump has done on the issue—and the low priority its been given by an administration that has shown little regard to protecting public health or improving access to more affordable medications.

"President Trump's executive order on drug pricing does not by itself do anything. It has to be followed up by regulations, which will take time," warned Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation in a tweet. "Trump has a history of bold talk on drug prices, only to pull back when it comes to putting actual regulations in place."

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Lower Drug Prices Now, an advocacy coalition of national and state-level affiliates which calls for lower and affordable drug prices for all Americans, warned that Trump's order should be seen for the reelection ploy by Trump that it is.

"No one should be fooled by President Trump's latest charade on drug prices," the group said in a Sunday night statement. "After three and a half years of endless empty rhetoric, Americans have seen their prescription drug prices go up, not down."

The group called the order nothing more than a public relations stunt "intended to distract Americans from the president's broken promises to seniors and the 200,000 Americans that have died from the coronavirus as a result of his failed Covid-19 response policies."

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According to Axios' reporter Caitlin Owens, "given that he's had four years already to act on what was also a big issue in 2016, there's plenty of reason to be skeptical of this ever translating into official policy."

In December of last year, House Democrats passed H.R. 3, The Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, by a vote of 230 to 192. While Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up in the Senate—and received no support from the Trump White House—the legislation would have led to dramatically lower prescription drug costs nationwide and much further-reaching protections and benefits for Americans overall.

"A serious proposal to lower RX prices & take away drug corporations' monopoly power to charge whatever they want requires coordinated action from Congress—like the Medicare negotiations bill that President Trump rejected last year which included international price indexing," said Lower Drug Prices Now in its statement, referring to HR 3. "It's clear that this President is more interested in photo ops than passing laws to take on Big Pharma."

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Peter Morley, a patient advocate, similarly met the announcement by the Trump administration with both anger and heartbreak.

"A PR stunt designed as an executive order on the affordability of prescription drugs does NOTHING," Morley tweeted. "Critical and chronically ill patients can still die by the lack of accessibility. It's just a game to this Administration. Sickening, LITERALLY."


Jon Queally

Jon Queally is managing editor for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @jonqueally

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Refi Rates Today, September 25, 2020 | Rate moves lower

Protester hit by vehicle during march down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood UK supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons are rationing toilet paper and hand sanitizer as fears of panic buying return. One worker said their store was worse than a bad Christmas. Refi Rates Today, September 25, 2020 | Rate moves lower

Mortgage refinance rates were mixed, but one key rate declined.

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The national average for a 30-year fixed-rate refinance trended down, but the average rate on a 15-year fixed cruised higher. Meanwhile, the average rate on 10-year fixed refis increased.

Refinancing rates change daily, but they have remained in a historically low range for quite some time. If you’re in the market to refinance, it could be a great time to lock in a rate.

See refinance rates for a variety of loan options here.

30-year fixed refinance

The average 30-year fixed-refinance rate is 2.92 percent, down 1 basis point compared with a week ago. A month ago, the average rate on a 30-year fixed refinance was higher, at 3.16 percent.

At the current average rate, you’ll pay $417.30 per month in principal and interest for every $100,000 you borrow. That represents a decline of $0.54 over what it would have been last week.

You can use Bankrate’s mortgage calculator to figure out your monthly payments and find out how much you’ll save by adding extra payments. It will also help you calculate how much interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

15-year fixed refinance

The average for a 15-year refi is currently running at 2.51 percent, up 5 basis points since the same time last week.

Monthly payments on a 15-year fixed refinance at that rate will cost around $666 per $100,000 borrowed. Yes, that payment is much bigger than it would be on a 30-year mortgage, but it comes with some big advantages: You’ll come out thousands of dollars ahead over the life of the loan in total interest paid and build equity much more rapidly.

10-year fixed refinance

The average rate for a 10-year fixed-refinance loan is 2.44 percent, up 2 basis points from a week ago.

Monthly payments on a 10-year fixed-rate refi at 2.44 percent would cost $939.07 per month for every $100,000 you borrow. That’s a lot more than the monthly payment on even a 15-year refinance, but in return you’ll pay even less in interest than you would with a 15-year term.

Where rates are headed

To see where Bankrate’s panel of experts expect rates to go from here, check out our Rate Trend Index.

Want to see where rates are right now? Lenders nationwide respond to Bankrate^aEURTMs weekday mortgage rates survey to bring you the most current rates available. Here you can see the latest marketplace average rates for a wide variety of purchase loans:

Average refinance interest rates Product Rate Last week Change
30-year fixed refi 2.92% 2.93% -0.01
15-year fixed refi 2.51% 2.46% +0.05
10-year fixed refi 2.44% 2.42% +0.02

Rates as of September 24, 2020.

Want to see where rates are right now? See refinance rates for a variety of loan options here.

How to decide whether to lock in your rate

When you lock in a refinance rate, you freeze the rate your lender offers you for a specific period of time. A rate lock will secure that rate between the time you apply for the refinance and when you close on it.

What causes mortgage rates to change

Mortgage rates are influenced by a range of economic factors, from inflation to unemployment numbers. Typically, higher inflation means higher interest rates and vice versa. As inflation rises, the dollar loses value, which in turn drives off investors for mortgage-backed securities, causing the prices to fall and yields to climb. When yields climb, rates get more expensive for borrowers.

A strong economy usually means more people buying homes, which drives demand for mortgages. This increased demand can push rates higher. The opposite is also true; less demand can trigger a drop in rates.

Current refinance rate environment

Refinance rates have been volatile since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the U.S. economy, but overall they have been very low. Mortgage rates can rise and fall from week to week, but rates are consistently below 4 percent and even dipping into the mid to low 3s. This is an especially good time for people with good to excellent credit to lock in a low rate for a purchase loan. However, lenders are also raising credit standards for borrowers and demanding higher down payments as they try to dampen their risks.

Methodology: The rates you see above are Bankrate.com Site Averages. These calculations are run after the close of the previous business day and include rates and/or yields we have collected that day for a specific banking product. Bankrate.com site averages tend to be volatile — they help consumers see the movement of rates day to day. The institutions included in the “Bankrate.com Site Average” tables will be different from one day to the next, depending on which institutions’ rates we gather on a particular day for presentation on the site.

To learn more about the different rate averages Bankrate publishes, see “Understanding Bankrate’s Rate Averages.”

Keep reading about other loan terms:
  • Today’s mortgage rates
  • Current 30-year interest rates
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  • eClick Lending Mortgage Review
  • LoanDepot Mortgage Review
Compare mortgage rates for various loan types Loan Type Purchase Rates Refinance Rates
The chart above links out to loan-specific pagesto help our readers learn more about rates by mortgage type.
30-Year Loan 30 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates 30-Year Refinance Rates
20-Year Loan 20-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates 20-Year Refinance Rates
15-Year Loan 15 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates Current 15-Year Refinance Rates
10-Year Loan 10-Year Mortgage Interest Rates 10-Year Refinance Rates
FHA Loan FHA Loan Interest Rates FHA Mortgage Refi Rates
VA Loan VA Mortgage Rates VA Refi Interest Rates
ARM Loan ARM Loan Rates ARM Refi Mortage Rates
Jumbo Loan Current Jumbo Mortgage Rates Jumbo Loan Refinance Rates

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