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Health Care Champion Xavier Becerra Puts His Exceptional Qualifications on Display During Confirmation Hearings

Washington, DC — Today, the confirmation hearings for Xavier Becerra concluded, leaving Senators and the public no doubt that he is a well qualified nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra has decades of experience and was an architect of the Affordable Care Act when he served in the House. Becerra also led the charge to protect Americans’ health care against constant, baseless Republican attacks as California’s Attorney General. In response, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement: 

“Xavier Becerra has once again shown us why he’s the right person for the job. Becerra dedicated his decades-long career to fighting to expand access to health care and protecting underserved communities while taking on powerful special interests to help working families. From his time in the House working tirelessly on the Affordable Care Act to his time as California’s Attorney General defending the law from relentless Republican attacks, Xavier Becerra has always prioritized health care. Becerra is a historic pick, and as Secretary of Health and Human Services, he will build on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act to lower health care costs including prescription drugs and expand access for all Americans. He is ready to lead HHS on day one, and the Senate should move quickly to confirm him so we can get the pandemic under control and get the country back on track.”

Protect Our Care Applauds Biden’s Selection of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to Head CMS

Washington, DC — Today, the Washington Post reported President Joe Biden has selected Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“Chiquita Brooks-LaSure will do a great job as the Administrator of CMS. She understands the issues and she cares deeply about the mission. She has the experience necessary to hit the ground running as the head of CMS, and she will use that experience to lower the costs of health care and make sure more Americans can access the coverage they need. Congress must move to confirm her and the rest of President Biden’s health care team quickly so they can take the steps necessary to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and get our country back on track.”

SIDE BY SIDE: What Open Enrollment Looks Like Under President Biden After Four Years of Trump Sabotage

On Monday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) opened the Affordable Care Act Marketplace for enrollment as Americans continue to face the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. This move ensures that everyone—including those who lost employer coverage and those who were uninsured before the crisis—can get covered beyond the standard open enrollment period. The Trump administration refused to take this important step despite pleas from health care experts, health insurers and lawmakers. 

Open enrollment under President Biden will look significantly different from the past four years. In 2017, Trump cut the outreach and advertising budget for enrollment by 90 percent. Funding for advertising and outreach remained at diminished levels for the 2021 enrollment period, even as millions lost coverage as a result of the pandemic. The Trump administration also cut the number of days people could sign up for coverage during open enrollment by half, from 90 days to 45 days. This was on top of ongoing efforts to dismantle the ACA, which undoubtedly created confusion among consumers. Unsurprisingly, millions lost coverage under Trump even before the pandemic. 

The Biden administration, on the other hand, is spending five times more on education and outreach during this special enrollment period than Trump spent for the standard enrollment period. The Biden administration has also pledged to prioritize reaching groups that historically have experienced lower access to health coverage and greater disparities in health outcomes. President Biden is also leading the charge to pass the American Rescue Plan which includes key provisions to expand coverage and lower health care costs for American families.

 

Trump’s PlanPresident Biden’s Plan 
Efforts to expand health coverage during the pandemicNone 

Trump instead pursued harmful waivers to reduce Medicaid enrollment, including block grants and work requirements, in the middle of the pandemic. 

Opened a special enrollment period

Biden directed the HHS to examine policies that undermine the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. Additionally, the Biden administration announced it would end Medicaid work requirements as part of its efforts to remove enrollment barriers.

Funding for education, outreach & advertisingCut funding for outreach and advertising to just $10 million for the standard enrollment period Dedicating $50 milion for the special enrollment period alone 
Duration of enrollment period45 days90 days for the special enrollment period in addition to the standard enrollment period later this year
Efforts to enroll hard-to-reach populations, including communities of color & non-English speakersNone — the Trump administration stopped engaging with partner groups, such as the Latino Affordable Care Act Coalition, women’s groups, medical organizations, and churches. CMS will collaborate with community partners to reach groups that historically have experienced lower access to health coverage and greater disparities in health outcomes.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Votes Through Critical Medicaid Measures in American Rescue Plan

Washington, DC — House Democrats, led by Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06), passed key Medicaid measures of the American Rescue Plan out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last night. This bill would incentivize the 12 remaining holdout states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. If these states expanded Medicaid, nearly four million uninsured adults — including 640,000 frontline workers — could gain coverage. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“This is a big week for health care in America. The Medicaid provisions in this bill are historic and incredibly popular with Americans. Medicaid expansion has played a vital role in reducing racial disparities in health care access and has served as a critical safety net for millions of Americans. Providing increased financial incentives for states to expand Medicaid could extend coverage to millions more. These provisions also work to reduce racial inequities by addressing the maternal mortality crisis, by enabling states to expand Medicaid coverage to new mothers 12 months postpartum. House Democrats are taking decisive action to deliver on their health care promises to lower costs and get more people covered right as Americans need it most, as they deal with the health and economic catastrophe caused by the pandemic. Democrats are using every method they can to get Americans relief, and Republicans should be ashamed of trying to block these efforts.”

President Biden Reverses Trump Era Dangerous, Mean-Spirited, Wholly Ineffective Medicaid Work Requirements Which Had One Goal: Kicking People Off Medicaid

Washington, DC — Today, the Biden administration will notify states it will revoke dangerous Medicaid work requirements, continuing the reversal of Trump’s four years of health care sabotage. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that these requirements were “arbitrary and capricious” while failing to advance the purposes of Medicaid. In response, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement: 

“President Biden is reversing one of the worst vestiges of Trump’s health care sabotage. Trump foisted these burdensome and ineffective paperwork requirements onto states to block people in need of health care from accessing Medicaid. President Biden’s roll back of this dangerous policy couldn’t come at a more critical time, as Americans battle the ongoing health and economic catastrophe caused by President Trump’s failure to address the coronavirus pandemic. The only purpose of these dangerous requirements was to kick people off Medicaid and continue the Trump administration’s relentless war on Medicaid and American health care. Good riddance.” 

ELECTIONS MATTER: Biden Administration Will Defend ACA, Withdraws Government Support for Republican Lawsuit to Scuttle the Law

Washington, DC — Today, the Biden administration announced it will defend the Affordable Care Act in California v. Texas, the lawsuit before the Supreme Court to completely dismantle the law, reversing the Trump administration’s support for ripping away coverage from more than 20 million Americans and protections for 135 million people with pre-existing conditions. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by the end of June. In response, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement:

“Elections matter, and this move by the Biden administration proves why. President Biden was inaugurated only three weeks ago, and in that time, he’s worked with Democrats to propose significant enhancements to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid and announced an upcoming special enrollment period so people impacted by the pandemic can get health insurance. Now, he’s putting the full support of the administration behind the ACA and denouncing the reckless lawsuit to invalidate the law. The contrast between this administration and the last could not be more stark. President Biden is a health care champion, and Americans can count on him to make health care more affordable for all Americans.”

Protect Our Care Applauds the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and U.S. Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC-12) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) introduced the “Momnibus Act” in Congress. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as non-Hispanic white women in the United States, a country where maternal mortality is already twice as high as comparable nations. This act bundles together 12 separate bills that will help address the systemic causes of the higher mortality rate. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach released the following statement:

“This act is a critical step in eliminating the racial disparities and maternal mortality issues present in our health care system, especially for Black mothers. Senator Booker, Congresswoman Adams and Congresswoman Underwood have long been champions of fighting for equity in our health care system, and this legislation is yet another example of their hard work. Racial disparities have been exacerbated and further exposed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and this bill provides new measures to eliminate inequity in the maternal health care system. Provisions in the ‘Momnibus’ Act have broad, bipartisan support, and Congress should do everything in its power to pass this crucial legislation.”

ROUNDUP: Drug Companies Hiked The Prices Of Nearly 1,000 Drugs In January

Multiple analyses confirm that drug companies hiked the prices of hundreds of drugs in January, as the pandemic surged across the nation. Meanwhile, new research shows that Americans are paying the price for these hikes: drugs in the U.S. are more than 2.5 times more expensive than in peer nations. These price increases come as more than one in four voters say they or a family member have been unable to afford a prescribed medication in the past year. There has never been a more urgent time to ensure that people have access to the medications they need as millions of Americans have lost jobs and their health care during the pandemic. Drug pricing remains a top issue for voters, with recent polling showing that nearly 9 in 10 say addressing high prices should be a top priority for the Biden administration. 

2021 Hikes

GoodRx Analysis Found That More Than 800 Drugs Saw Prices Increases In January — The “Largest Number Of Increases In Years.” “In January, 832 drugs increased in price by an average of 4.6%. This breaks down to 822 brand drugs and 10 generic drugs and includes all over-the-counter and healthcare practitioner-administered medications. On top of that, 175 drugs that increased this year were specialty drugs, which means that they were likely already quite expensive.” [GoodRx, 2/2/21

An Analysis From 46brooklyn Found That U.S. Saw Brand Name Drug Price Increases Surpass 900 In January 2021, The Highest In Over A Decade. “It’s official: Americans have now seen more brand-name prescription drug price increases this month than for any January in the previous decade…With a week left, this month already has seen price increases for 905 prescription drugs, which tops the mark of 895 established for all of January 2018. Unlike previous years, every price change so far has represented an increase.” [The Columbus Dispatch, 1/24/21

A Report By Patients For Affordable Drugs Found That Drug Companies Raised Prices On Over 600 Drugs At The Beginning Of The New Year, With Hikes Averaging 5 Percent. “More than 100 pharmaceutical companies raised prices on over 600 drugs at the beginning of the new year, according to a new report from the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs…By the numbers: 95% of price hikes were on brand-name drugs. The median increase was about 5%, and almost all of them were greater than inflation.” [Axios, 1/14/21

3 Axis Advisors: Drugmakers To Hike Prices On More Than 300 Drugs On January 1, 2021. “Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc, Sanofi SA, and GlaxoSmithKline Plc plan to raise U.S. prices on more than 300 drugs in the United States on Jan. 1, according to drugmakers and data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors…The companies kept their price increases at 10% or below, and the largest drug companies to raise prices so far, Pfizer and Sanofi, kept nearly all of their increases 5% or less, 3 Axis said. 3 Axis is a consulting firm that works with pharmacists groups, health plans and foundation on drug pricing and supply chain issues.” [Reuters, 12/31/20

As Drug Companies Continue To Pursue Unjustified Price Hikes, Research Confirms Americans Are Paying The Price

January 2021 Report By The RAND Corporation Shows That U.S. Drug Prices Are 256% Higher Than 32 Other Countries. “Prescription drug prices in the U.S. are more than 256% higher than other 32 other countries, with the gap driven by brand-name drugs, a new report by nonpartisan RAND Corporation shows. The big picture: Drug spending in the U.S. jumped by 76% between 2000 and 2017, and the costs are expected to only increase over the next decade, per the report.” [Axios, 1/28/21

February 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation Analysis Found That Half Of All Drugs Covered By Medicare Part D Had Price Increases Between 2018 And 2019 That Outpaced Inflation. ”Our analysis finds half of all Part D-covered drugs (50%, or 1,646 drugs) had list price increases that exceeded the rate of inflation between July 2018 and July 2019, which was 1.8% (Figure 1). Among the drugs with list price increases exceeding inflation between 2018 and 2019, the median list price increase was 6.4%, or 3.5 times the rate of inflation.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/4/21

January 2021 Analysis By The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review Found That Unjustified Price Hikes Of Seven Drugs Cost The U.S. $1.2 Billion In 2019. “During 2019, drug makers raised prices on seven widely used medicines by substantial amounts without any new clinical evidence to justify the increases, leading patients and insurers in the U.S. to spend an added $1.2 billion that year, according to a new analysis. For instance, Salix Pharmaceuticals raised the price on Xifaxan, its irritable bowel disease treatment, by 13%, after accounting for rebates, discounts and other fees, which led to an extra $173 million in spending had the company not raised the price. And Amgen (AMGN) boosted the price of its Enbrel medicine for rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments by 8.9%, after rebates and fees, which cost the U.S. health care system an extra $403 million.”  [Stat, 1/12/21

Protect Our Care Praises Key Health Care Measures in American Rescue Plan

Washington, DC — House Democrats released parts of their American Rescue Plan Monday night, which includes major provisions to lower health care costs and expand coverage, building on the Affordable Care Act. Increasing financial assistance on the ACA Marketplace means more people will be able to get the affordable coverage they need during the pandemic. The bill will be marked up by the House Ways and Means Committee this week. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“This is a big deal. The health care cost and coverage measures in this bill will make a huge difference for millions of American struggling with the economic and health consequences of the pandemic. It lowers the cost of premiums for millions by increasing financial assistance through the Affordable Care Act and making that support available to more middle class families. It eliminates premiums for people who have lost their jobs to ensure continued coverage. Making health care more affordable and accessible is critical as we continue to face the health and economic catastrophe caused by the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has cost millions of Americans their jobs and their health insurance, and this bill is a historic and much needed step to expand coverage and make sure people can afford the coverage they so desperately need. House Democrats should be applauded for their efforts.”

NEW POLLING: Tackling COVID and Health Care Reform Are Top Priorities for Voters

Watch the Event Here

Read Poll Memo and Findings

Washington, DC — On a press call today, Protect Our Care and Hart Research released new polling that shows tackling the coronavirus pandemic and health care reform are the top priorities for voters across the political spectrum. The findings come from a new national survey that was commissioned by Protect Our Care. The survey examined a broad range of health care and public health issues including the current debate on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, what voters hope Congress will achieve on health care, and the political implications of both parties’ positions on health care. The research shows that health care is a critical kitchen table issue for Americans and should be a top legislative priority for Congress.

“Voters chose Democrats because they wanted change from the Trump-Republican health care sabotage agenda. Americans want a plan to battle the pandemic, relief to address the economic fallout, and to build on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act,” said Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse. “Today’s poll shows a clear mandate for Democrats in Congress to work with President Biden to accomplish those goals. Republicans already lost the White House and Congress, and they ignore Americans’ clear desire for health care reform at their own peril.”

“Today’s poll shows voters across party lines want measures to make health care more affordable and expand coverage to be at the very top of the agenda for President Biden and Congress, with 65% of voters choosing health care affordability as one of their top priorities,” said Hart Research President Geoff Garin. “Outside of Washington, DC, the country is unified in their support of the American Rescue plan and the type of solutions needed to deliver health care to more Americans. They want policies that will reduce the cost of health care. Voters want Democrats to do the most good for the most people on health care — even if Republicans in Congress refuse to get on board.” 

“For the first time in a decade, with President Biden in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, we can lower health care costs, increase coverage, and improve care for millions of Americans. This polling shows Americans want us to seize that opportunity, particularly in the middle of this pandemic. We must act now, and we must act decisively,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “This polling makes clear Americans want and need measures to make health care more affordable, expand Medicaid in states that have failed to do so, and address racial disparities to be included in any COVID relief plan passed by Congress.”

Read Protect Our Care’s Health Care Agenda Here.