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A Bipartisan Path to Lower Drug Prices
Posted by on May 16, 2019 | comments
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Full Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to H.R. 987. I am concerned that the Democrats are using bipartisan drug pricing bills to pay for partisan politics. These bills are proof that we can work together across the aisle and do what is best for our constituents. Unfortunately, as the Washington Post so eloquently said yesterday in the Health 202, “Democrats are putting a political pothole in the way of bipartisan drug pricing bills.”

The Democrats have decided to use the $5 billion in savings from those policies to fund state-based ACA marketplaces, the Federal-Facilitated Marketplace Navigator program, ACA outreach and enrollment, and take away health care choices from Americans.

This morning, STAT published an article entitled, “In Washington, a partisan approach to lowering drug costs leaves Democrats doubting their own party leadership.” As STAT reported, even House Democrats don’t understand why the Speaker of the House and party leadership have decided to politicize bipartisan bills with widespread support. The chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is on the record as saying she was “not a fan of what happened.”

Republicans stand ready to work on solutions. Congressman Mark Meadows told STAT that the Democrats’ political stunt is a “wasted opportunity.”

He continued: “You’ve got the chairman of the Freedom Caucus willing to work with Democrats on making real, structural reforms on prescription drug prices. And what do they do? They put a poison pill in, trying to augment a failing health care-delivery system.”

So, I ask my friends on the other side of the dais, why are you intent on tanking good legislation that can deliver real results for real people? You say you want to lower drug prices, but your actions speak loudly otherwise.

Fortunately, I am not just here to complain. I also have a solution to the scenario that we are facing on the floor today. On Tuesday night at the Rules Committee, I offered an amendment that would take these three drug policies and use the $5 billion of savings from those policies to pay for bipartisan public health priorities. I have also introduced H.R. 2700, the Lowering Prescription Drug Costs and Extending Community Health Centers and Other Public Health Priorities Act.

H.R. 2700 couples the bipartisan drug pricing policies with reauthorizations of programs such as Community Health Centers, Special Diabetes programs, and National Health Service Corps. Look, reauthorizations are tough. I know - I was chairman of the Health Subcommittee in the last Congress. September seems like a long way away, but many of these programs expire at the end of the fiscal year.

The time to get these things done is now. We’ve taken no specific action toward reauthorization of these programs. Again, September seems far away but we’ve got to account for the time it takes to move through regular order.

On the other issues that we’re facing today, including the short-term limited duration rule repeal. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, the policy to repeal the Trump Administration’s short-term, limited duration insurance rule would result in 500,000 individuals becoming uninsured.

Is this what you want? Isn’t it better that people have some form of insurance than none at all?

I take meetings in my office back home in my district with families that cannot afford the high premium and high deductible plans they have been forced to buy off the ACA exchange. These individuals need lower-cost options, and that is exactly what these limited duration plans provide. States already regulate these plans and have the authority to disallow them at the state level, if they so choose. This is a great case for federalism.

To quote from the Congressional Budget Office report: the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that if the Trump Administration rule would be struck down, roughly 1.5 million fewer people would purchase short-term plans. Of those, more than 500,000 would instead purchase non-group coverage in the market places established by the Affordable Care Act and 500,000 would become uninsured.

The drug policies contained in both H.R. 987 and my bill, H.R. 2700, are commonsense, bipartisan measures to lower drug prices for our constituents. I am disappointed that they have been rolled into a partisan package that will be dead upon arrival in the Senate. We were able to work together in Committee to ensure that these policies would improve access to generics for American patients. I hope that Democratic Leadership will consider the bipartisan nature of policies when moving packages to the floor in the future.

The complete video of Dr. Burgess’ remarks is available here.

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