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Capitol Hill

Democrats’ Budget Agreement Includes Historic Health Care Investments That Will Transform the Lives of Millions of Americans

This week, Senate Democrats unveiled a $3.5 trillion proposed FY2022 Budget Resolution framework that would make historic investments in Americans health care. The proposal, which has the strong support of President Biden, lowers the cost of prescription drugs, expands Medicare benefits to include vision, dental and hearing, closes the Medicaid coverage gap, and extends the premium reductions under the American Rescue Plan so millions of people can continue to afford their coverage. In response, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement:

“After years of Republican efforts to rip away health care, the health care principles outlined in the Senate Democrats’ budget resolution framework represent a huge milestone in the fight for affordable care. Under the leadership of President Biden, Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to meaningfully improve the health and well-being of millions of Americans, and as we come out of this pandemic, improving access to care could not be more urgent. This framework demonstrates that Democrats are committed to delivering on their promises for the American people. Well done.” 

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 53 percent of American adults, or roughly 130 million people, take prescription drugs in the U.S. and stand to benefit from legislation to lower drug prices. 
  • Nearly 38 million traditional Medicare enrollees would gain vision, dental, and hearing coverage. 
  • More than 2 million uninsured people stuck in the coverage gap would get access to quality, affordable insurance.
  • 4.2 million uninsured people would gain coverage if the American Rescue Plan’s subsidies are made permanent, and millions more would continue to save on health care costs.

NEW REPORT: Closing the Medicaid Coverage Gap in Georgia

New Report Outlines Urgent Need for Federal Approach to Provide Relief to Millions of People Who Have Been Locked Out of Coverage

Report Comes After Sen. Warnock Released Bold Legislation for the Federal Government to Close the Coverage Gap

Washington, DC — Today, Protect Our Care is releasing a report on the impacts of the Coverage Gap in Georgia, one of 12 states that refuse to expand Medicaid. Americans with low incomes should not be forced to go without health coverage simply because they live in a state that has refused Medicaid expansion. According to the report, nearly 646,000 Georgians could gain coverage if Medicaid were expanded.

However, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in financial incentives in the American Rescue Plan, state leaders continue to stand in the way of expansion, leaving hundreds of thousands of Georgia families without access to quality, affordable care. 

In response to Republican inaction in states like Georgia, President Biden and Congressional Democrats are working to bypass state governments who refuse to do the right thing. Just this week, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced legislation creating a federal solution to finally expand Medicaid coverage to millions of people stuck in the coverage gap.

The POC report comes after leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, which includes the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), joined more than 60 of their colleagues on a letter advocating for closing the coverage gap through the American Families Plan.

“For too long leaders in Georgia and the other non-expansion states have put politics over people, refusing to strengthen public health by expanding Medicaid. And this robust report details how the nearly 275,000 Georgians who are in the coverage gap and the 500,000 Georgians who would be eligible for Medicaid have paid the highest price for these decisions,” Senator Reverend Warnock said. “This timely report underlines the urgency with which Congress must act to ensure hardworking people with low-incomes have access to affordable health care, and I’m going to keep pushing the Senate hard to include my legislation to close the coverage gap and provide affordable health care to millions of Georgians and Americans in the next recovery package.”

“Waiting for the Republican leaders in Georgia and the 11 other states that refuse to expand Medicaid to change course is no longer a viable option,” said Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse. “By refusing to expand Medicaid in their state, Georgia Republican lawmakers are denying coverage to their most vulnerable populations, including thousands of Georgians of color. Despite the overwhelming benefits of Medicaid expansion, and even with the additional incentives included in the American Rescue Plan, Republicans have put politics over people by continuing to reject the program. Senator Warnock and Congressional Democrats are now leading with a bold new approach for the federal government to close the expansion gap, and Congress must take action now to make it a reality.”

Read the new report on closing the coverage gap in Georgia here.

Read the previous reports on Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina. Texas, and Wisconsin.

Protect Our Care Praises Senator Warnock’s Legislation To Close The Medicaid Coverage Gap

Senator Warnock’s Legislation Would Expand Coverage To Millions, Including 2.4 Million People of Color

Washington, DC — Today, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced legislation creating a federal solution to expand Medicaid coverage to millions of people stuck in the coverage gap in 13 states where Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid. Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach praised the legislation in a statement:

“Medicaid expansion reduces racial disparities in health care, creates healthier communities and strengthens economies. It is the single most important thing Congress can do to address the racial inequities laid bare by the pandemic. If we fail to expand Medicaid, we fail millions of people,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “Congress must close the coverage gap once and for all. People of color, women, children, older adults, people with disabilities and so many more will benefit from this legislation, and we commend Senator Warnock’s leadership in ensuring better access to care.” 

HEADLINES: House Report Highlights Drugmaker Greed, Need for Congressional Action to Lower Drug Costs

Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a report detailing how large pharmaceutical corporations have used skyrocketing drug prices to line the pockets of CEOs and investors, while spending billions less on research and development. Specifically, between 2016 and 2020, 14 leading drugmakers spent $577 billion on stock buybacks and dividends—$56 billion more than what was invested in research and development over the same period. One company, Amgen, spent nearly six times more on executive pay, buybacks, and dividends than it did on research and development in 2018. If allowed to continue on this trajectory, these 14 corporations are projected to spend $1.15 trillion on buybacks and dividends between 2020 and 2029 — more than twice of what H.R. 3 is projected to save over the same period. 

The report also revealed that when these drugmakers did invest in research and development, many spent large portions of their budget developing methods to suppress generic and biosimilar competition that would make life saving drugs more affordable for the American people. 

This Oversight Committee’s report underscores the urgent need for Congress to take action now to  pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices.. 

HEADLINES:

STAT News: House Democrats Say Pharma Stock Buybacks And Dividends Exceed R&D Spending. “Assuming the same rate of spending going forward, the drug makers are projected to spend $1.15 trillion on buybacks and dividends from 2020 through 2029. This would exceed by more than twice the amount that the Congressional Budget Office projected would be saved over the same period by a House bill – called H.R. 3 – that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for certain drugs.” [STAT News, 7/8/21]

Kaiser Health News: Drugmakers’ Spending on Stock, Dividends and Executive Pay Exceeds Research, Democrats Say. “Contrary to pharmaceutical industry arguments that large profits fund extensive research and innovation, the major drug companies plow more of their billions in earnings back into their own stocks, dividends and executive compensation. And they can do it largely because Congress has imposed few restrictions on their pricing in the United States — including in the Medicare program, which is not permitted to negotiate drug prices.” [Kaiser Health News, 7/9/21]

The Hill: House Report: Drug Companies Spent More On Buybacks, Dividends Than Research. “Democrats sought to push back on the pharmaceutical industry’s argument that the bill would harm innovation, saying that drug companies could simply cut back on payouts to shareholders, rather than cutting research and development.” [The Hill, 7/8/21]

Bloomberg: Pelosi Slams Drugmaker Buybacks, Wants Price Cuts In Bill. “The House Democratic bill would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and then force drug companies to lower the prices they charge private insurers or impose huge fines on the companies. Pelosi said she wants it to be part of a special budget bill.” [Bloomberg, 7/8/21]

Fierce Healthcare: House Dems’ Report Slams Drugmaker Stock Buybacks As Pelosi Presses To Give Medicare Negotiating Powers. “Democratic leadership slammed drugmakers’ most common defense that pricing reforms will lead to fewer new innovations. ‘How can pharma say with a straight face after spending $577 billion on buybacks and dividends in the last five years that lowering drug prices for Americans will have to come at the expense of research and development?’ said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” [Fierce Healthcare, 7/9/21]

Endpoints News: Pelosi Threatens To Slide Drug Pricing Reform Into Biden’s Budget Bill, Rejects Industry Pushback That Innovation Would Suffer. “From 2016 to 2020, the companies spent $56 billion more on stock buybacks and dividends — $577 billion — than on R&D, the report found. The projected number of spending on buybacks from 2020 to 2029 is $1.15 trillion for the same 14 companies.” [Endpoints News, 7/9/21]

NEW: Protect Our Care Announces “Lower Rx Summer” as Part of Its Campaign to Reduce Drug Prices

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06) and Leaders from AARP and Little Lobbyists Joined Protect Our Care To Announce Summer of Action to Reduce Drug Prices for All Americans

Lower Rx Summer Will Include Themed Weeks, Ad Campaigns, National and State Events and a Nationwide Tour in August

Watch the Event Here.

Washington D.C.– Today on a press call with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) , Nancy LeaMond of AARP, and Elena Hung of Little Lobbyists, Protect Our Care announced a “Lower Rx Summer” as part of The Campaign to Reduce Drug Prices. Lower Rx Summer will consist of themed weeks of action to demonstrate the urgent need for legislation to lower drug prices principally by giving Medicare the power to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices for all Americans. 

In the coming months, President Biden and members of Congress have an unprecedented opportunity to finally take action to lower drug prices. In 2019, House Democrats passed the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), bold legislation to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug costs — the single most effective measure to bring down drug prices. In April, Rep. Pallone reintroduced this legislation, giving Congress another opportunity to lower prescription drug costs, and meet the demands of voters. Big Pharma has taken notice and is spending millions to spread lies about H.R. 3 and stop any meaningful reform. Protect Our Care will be reminding Americans just what’s at stake in the fight to bring down drug prices. 

Throughout the summer, Protect Our Care will hold virtual and in-person events with allies, advocates, storytellers and elected officials and release new reports to illustrate the devastating impact of high drug prices on American families. Lower Rx Summer will include research, paid and earned media, and grassroots and grasstops engagement. It will be capped off by a national tour in August. The effort will focus substantially on lifting up the stories of Americans of all walks of life struggling to afford the high cost of prescription drugs, and especially those suffering from life-altering diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.    

“We need to continue to raise awareness about the importance of passing H.R. 3 and the need to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. Prescription drug prices are out of control, and it’s only getting worse,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06).  “Americans pay more than any other country in the world for the exact same medications. And even at the height of the pandemic and the global economic crisis, Big Pharma increased their prices on over 300 drugs in the United States at the beginning of the year. It’s time that we empower the federal government to negotiate fair prescription drug prices.”

“On behalf of AARP’s 38 million members and all older Americans, AARP is calling on Congress to pass comprehensive prescription drug reform,” said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer at AARP. “Every day, we hear about the tough decisions older Americans face as drug prices continue to skyrocket. Medicare beneficiaries, on average, take between four and five prescription medications each month and have a median income of almost $30,000 a year. They simply can’t afford skyrocketing prescription drug prices. The time for action is now.”

“Many of our families rely on the innovation and development of life-saving medications to treat and sustain our children with complex medical needs and disabilities. Those medications, however, are only life-saving if the patient can afford them,” said Elena Hung, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Little Lobbyists. “Therefore, we call on Congress to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices so our families can access the life-saving medications our children need to survive and thrive.” 

“Protect Our Care is embarking on this journey because millions of people are struggling to afford lifesaving medications. As drug companies are raking in record profits, Americans are facing impossible choices between affording medications and paying rent or putting food on the table. And despite everything this country has been through during the pandemic, Big Pharma recently hiked the prices of more than 1,000 medications — not because of any new innovation, but because they could,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “The time to put an end to Big Pharma’s greed is now. The momentum is with us: nine out of 10 Americans agree that Medicare should have the power to negotiate for lower drug prices for all Americans. Seniors, women, children, communities of color, and everyone purchasing prescription drugs stand to benefit from this policy. This summer, Protect Our Care will make sure people know which of their elected officials are supporting efforts to bring down drug prices, and which ones are committed to protecting Big Pharma’s profits.”

Later this month, Protect Our Care will launch digital ads in 13 target states: Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Themed Weeks for Lower Rx Summer

Week 1 (June 7): The Skyrocketing Price of Prescription Drugs

Week 2 (June 14): Pushing Back on Big Pharma’s Lies

Week 3 (June 21): How High Drug Prices Hurt Seniors

Week 4 (June 28): How High Drug Prices Hurt Women

Week 5 (July 5): How High Drug Prices Hurt People with Disabilities

Week 6 (July 12): How High Drug Prices Hurt People of Color

Week 7 (July 19): How High Drug Prices Hurt Small Businesses

Week 8 (July 26): How High Drug Prices Hurt Children

Prescription Drug Reform Must Include Medicare Negotiation

Nearly 9 in 10 Americans Support Giving Medicare the Power to Negotiate for Lower Drug Prices

Washington, D.C. — News reports have indicated that a small group of lawmakers in the House are walking back their commitment to giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices for all Americans. This comes as Big Pharma is breaking records for the money it’s spending on lobbyists to block any meaningful legislation to lower prices for patients. Meanwhile, President Biden reiterated his commitment to allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices just last month. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement: 

“It is outrageous that Medicare — the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the country — is banned from negotiating prices on behalf of the American people. The ban on negotiation was put in place by Republicans at the behest of big drug companies to protect their profits, and now Democrats have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reverse course. No matter what other policies lawmakers support to lower drug costs, giving Medicare the power and the teeth to negotiate for lower drug prices is the key to getting the job done. Anything else is a sham. No policy could do more to meaningfully bring down drug prices. And despite Big Pharma’s PAC contributions and bogus claims, nearly 90 percent of Americans across the political spectrum support Medicare negotiations. The House passed H.R. 3 last year and the Speaker and House leaders have said they will do it again, and everyone who truly cares about lowering drug prices should be fighting for and not against H.R. 3.” 

BACKGROUND

Protect Our Care recently launched The Campaign to Reduce Drug Prices with an ad running on television nationally and digitally in 12 key states to demonstrate the urgent need for comprehensive legislation to lower drug prices

NEW MORNING CONSULT POLL: Top 2 Issues Are Health Care Costs & Drug Costs

According to the new Morning Consult/Politico national survey, the top two issues that people think Congress should prioritize are ‘reducing health care costs’ and ‘passing a bill to bring down prescription drug costs.’ Both have more than 85% of voters saying they are a priority and include strong support from Independents and Republicans

TOP TWO ISSUES

Reducing health care costs: 88% (59% top priority)

– 87% (63% top priority) with Independents

– 83% (50% top priority) with Republicans

 

Passing a bill to bring down prescription drug costs: 85% (50% top priority)

– 82% (48% top priority) with Independents

– 82% (46% top priority) with Republicans

 

OTHER ISSUES

Stimulating the economy to recover from the coronavirus pandemic: 84% (59% top priority)

Reducing the federal budget deficit: 77% (41% top priority) 

Passing a health care reform bill: 76% (47% top priority)

Passing an immigration reform bill: 71% (39% top priority)

Passing an infrastructure spending bill: 70% (34% top priority)

Passing a bill to address climate change and its effects: 65% (37% top priority)

Passing a bill to reduce inequality: 61% (34% top priority)

Passing legislation placing additional restrictions on gun ownership: 60% (36% top priority)

Regulating tech companies: 57% (22% top priority)

Passing a bill to provide relief to Americans with student loan debt: 54% (24% top priority)

Eliminating the filibuster in the Senate: 48% (22% top priority)

Passing a bill to legalize marijuana: 43% (19% top priority)

House Democrats to Reintroduce Bill to Lower Drug Prices, Stand Up to Big Pharma

Washington, DC — According to reports, House Democrats will once again introduce historic legislation to lower prescription drug costs. The bill will give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices so that every American can pay less for the drugs they need. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement: 

“This legislation addresses one of the biggest economic and health concerns Americans face — skyrocketing prescription drug prices. The single most effective way to lower drug prices is to give Medicare the power to negotiate on behalf of all Americans. Americans shouldn’t have to pay three times as much for drugs as people in other countries and shouldn’t have to choose between taking their medicine and buying their groceries. Republicans refused to even allow a vote on this bill on the Senate floor, but now with Democrats in charge of the Senate and the House, and Joe Biden in the White House, Americans can finally get relief from Pharma’s outrageous prices.”

BACKGROUND:

The Time To Act Is Now: Lower Drug Prices For All Americans

Health Care Champions Andrea Palm and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure Show Exceptional Qualifications During Senate Finance Committee Hearing 

Washington, DC — Today, the Senate Finance Committee held confirmation hearings for two critical Biden administration health care nominees: Andrea Palm as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator. Both nominees demonstrated their exceptional qualifications for their posts and their deep commitment to health care. In response, Protect Our Care Chair and former Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“With his selection of Andrea Palm and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure for key health care roles in his administration, President Biden is assembling the best possible team to deliver on the health care needs of Americans.

“During the Obama administration, I had the opportunity to work closely with Andrea Palm, and I know she will make an outstanding Deputy Secretary of HHS. She is a public servant through and through, and in Wisconsin she did an extraordinary job handling the pandemic by respecting the science and the facts, making the right decisions, and telling the truth to the people she served. She knows the issues and has the experience necessary to deliver for the American people.

“Chiquita Brooks-LaSure will make an excellent CMS Administrator. Her deep knowledge of the issues and her commitment to the mission of CMS make her an ideal pick. She has the experience necessary to hit the ground running as the head of CMS, and she will use that experience to lower the cost of health care, make sure more Americans get the health care they need, and address the racial inequities that permeate our health care system.”

Andrea Palm Has the Experience and Qualifications Needed to Be Deputy Secretary of HHS

This week, the Senate Finance Committee will consider President Biden’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Andrea Palm. Palm has the experience and qualifications needed to be an outstanding Deputy Secretary of HHS. Her leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic has led Wisconsin to one of the best vaccination rates in the country, saving countless lives. Palm has support from a diverse group of stakeholders, including the Wisconsin Hospital Association and large private sector health care employers in the state.  

Experience

  • Palm served as Secretary-Designee for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services from 2019 to 2021 and led the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • Palm served in a variety of senior roles at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including as Senior Counselor to the Secretary (2014-2017), Chief of Staff (2013-2014), Counselor to the Secretary for Science and Public Health (2011-2013), and as Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislation (2009-2010)
  • Palm holds an undergraduate degree in human services studies from Cornell University and attended graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis.

Leadership In Wisconsin

  • Palm led Wisconsin to one of the best vaccination rates in the country, reducing disparities in access and saving countless lives. 
  • Five large employers in Wisconsin, including the health software company Epic, are backing Palm’s confirmation, saying that she partnered effectively with the private sector and “led with facts, strength, and transparency.” 
  • In a letter of support Children’s Wisconsin said Palm’s tenure in Wisconsin was “characterized by strong collaboration, partnership and communication.” The hospital called her handling of the Covid-19 “skillful,” “effective,” and “nimble” and cited her “unwavering commitment to advancing the health of Wisconsin residents and strong management skills” as major assets for the Department of Health and Human Services.  
  • Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers called Andrea Palm “a public servant through and through.” “She’s been a critical part of our administration and a consummate professional who has done an extraordinary job helping lead our state during an unprecedented public health crisis, said Evers. “I know she will continue to serve our country just as she has our state — with empathy, kindness, and tenacity. I wish her our very best as she leaves us to take this new opportunity.”

Experts And Stakeholders Know That Andrea Palm Is A Superb Choice For HHS Deputy Secretary 

  • Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius relied on Andrea Palm as her chief of staff. Sebelius has said that Palm “knows every piece of the department” 
  • Former HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr said Palm’s experience with Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislature shows she can navigate Washington’s policy fights. “The fact that she’s had so much opposition, and she’s still managed to organize and deliver so much in Wisconsin says legions about her leadership ability and addressing the public’s needs, and not getting caught in the political games,” Corr said.
  • The Wisconsin Hospital Association supports Palm’s nomination, citing her work fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and reforming Wisconsin’s Medicaid telehealth laws. In a supportive letter the WHA wrote “Andrea’s health care policy expertise, combined with her ability to build a strong team, create partnerships and collaborations and manage multiple complex and challenging tasks simultaneously make her well-suited for her new role as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.” 
  • The American Hospital Association is also backing Palm’s nomination because she has “spent her entire career improving our health care system and ensuring Americans have access to health care.” According to the AHA, “The state of Wisconsin faced many challenges during the pandemic; however, under Ms. Palm’s leadership, the state was able to meet the health care needs of the state’s urban, suburban and rural communities.” 
  • The CEO of Wisconsin’s Advocate Aurora Health called Palm “a reliable and thoughtful partner when it came to helping our frontline providers obtain critical supplies of vaccines, test kits and other important tools to help fight the pandemic” and expressed confidence that she will be “a highly effective leader at HHS and will support the Department’s critical mission.”