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Pallone Floor Remarks on Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act

May 16, 2019
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today during consideration of H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act:

I rise to speak in favor of H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act. 

This legislation is a big step in our commitment to delivering on our promise to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable.  It brings together seven bills that passed out the Energy and Commerce Committee last month. Taken together, these bills will strengthen our nation’s health care system, reverse the Trump Administration’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and help lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs. 

The first title of this bill contains three bipartisan measures intended to address high prescription drug costs by promoting greater competition in our pharmaceutical marketplace.  One of the most effective ways to bring down the cost of prescription drugs is to ensure that generics can come to market as soon as possible. 

The first proposal would address so-called exclusively parking – a practice where a first time generic is blocking the approval of other generics from entering the market.

The second proposal prohibits the use of pay-for-delay agreements between brand and generic drug manufacturers that delay generic entry into the market.

And finally, the third drug pricing measure would address situations where some brand drug companies are delaying or impeding generic entry by denying generic drug manufacturers access to samples or to single-shared system REMS.

By eliminating these three barriers, we will prevent some manufacturers from manipulating the system to extend their monopolies at the expense of consumers.  This will make prescription drugs more affordable for all Americans. 

The second title of this bill will help lower Americans’ health care costs, protect people living with pre-existing conditions and reverse some of the most harmful actions the Trump Administration has carried out to sabotage the ACA. 

Two of the proposals will restore funding for the Navigator program and outreach and enrollment efforts that help provide consumers with the support and information they need to make the right health care decisions for their families.  Restoring this funding is critical considering that the Trump Administration gutted funding for consumer outreach and marketing by 90 percent. It cut Navigator funding by 80 percent, leaving huge swathes of the country without access to fair and unbiased enrollment help.

H.R. 987 will also provide states with funding to establish their own State-Based Marketplaces, which will help make health care more affordable.  In 2018, premiums in these marketplaces were 17 percent lower than in the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace, and enrollment was higher for the state plans.

Finally, H.R. 987 will reverse the Trump Administration’s regulation to expand junk insurance plans known as short-term limited duration health insurance.  The Trump Administration expanded these junk plans from the current three-month term and made these plans available for up to three years. 

These junk plans are exactly that – junk.  They discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.  They set higher premiums for people based on age, gender, and health status.  They deny access to basic benefits like prescription drugs, maternity care, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.  And they set arbitrary dollar limits for health care services, leading to huge surprise bills for consumers.  This legislation would prevent the Administration’s expansion of these plans from taking place.

In closing, I believe this is an important bill that will lower health care and prescription drug costs, protect people with pre-existing conditions and end some of the Administration’s ongoing sabotage of our nation’s health care system. 

I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.