COLUMN: Playing Politics with Prescription Drugs

May 20, 2019
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

It is no secret that prescription drug costs are high.  When we hear about medications being sold for outrageous prices, it is important to remember that they aren’t necessarily special drugs for specific treatments or rare diseases. These are medicines that treat high-cholesterol and blood pressure, epi-pens that save the lives of children and adults exposed to an allergen, and insulin that patients with diabetes depend on every day. In Central Washington, we already experience provider shortages, skyrocketing deductibles, and unaffordable premiums. We must find a way to decrease drug prices so that they do not contribute to the already inaccessible healthcare system.

Republicans and Democrats agree: we must lower prescription drug prices.  Reducing costs has been at the forefront of President Trump’s agenda, and there have been several bipartisan bills passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to encourage creation of generics, increase competition between drug companies, and increase transparency for pharmacy pricing.

Unfortunately, House Democrats have decided to play politics with prescription drugs. These bipartisan bills would have easily passed the House by voice vote. Instead, these bills were combined in a package that added in “poison pills,” such as legislation to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a failing Obamacare system and strengthen the Democrats’ socialist agenda.

The MORE Health Education Act, which passed the House by a vote of 234-183, does not put the American people first, and it will not be signed into law. Rather than enacting real change to lower drug costs, Speaker Pelosi and House leadership are attempting to dismantle the Trump Administration’s efforts to lower healthcare costs across the board. This bill devotes $100 million on a program that helps less than 1% of all enrollees and another $200 million to promote failing Obamacare exchanges. It also prohibits the promotion and expansion of Association Health Plans (AHPs) and short-term limited-duration plans, which have greatly contributed to decreased premiums and increased number of people insured – especially in the 4th Congressional District.

Washington state has implemented an extremely successful Association Health Plan (AHP) program that has allowed employers – especially small businesses – to offer health insurance benefits to their employees. AHPs serve as an example of a commonsense solution to lower costs, that also serve as a hiring incentive for business owners. It is troubling that Democrats would prohibit the promotion or expansion of these plans. 

We all agree that we need to lower prescription drug costs, but socialist proposals, like Obamacare expansion and “Medicare-for-All,” will not make drugs more affordable or help the people of this country who are just struggling to afford their daily medications. We should be encouraging a free-market approach that encourages innovation while lowering drug costs for everyone – not eliminating private insurance and spending millions of dollars on a program that has clearly failed the American people. It is a shame the opportunity to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation was lost, but I will continue working with my colleagues to make health care and prescription drugs affordable and accessible.