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VOTE ALERT: House To Vote On Lower Drug Costs Now Act Next Week: Will Republicans Stand With American Families Or Continue Defending Big Pharma?

Washington, DC — Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal and Education & Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott announced that Democrats’ landmark drug pricing bill, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) will be brought to the House floor for a vote next week. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach released the following statement: 

“Thanks to the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, Congress now has the opportunity to take historic action to lower prescription drug prices by passing the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. A vote on this bill puts every member of Congress on the record on whether they stand with the American people or with big drug companies who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions to rig the system to keep prices high. Meanwhile, the White House and Congressional Republicans continue defending big pharma and oppose the single most effective and popular solution to lower costs — giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices. By holding a vote on H.R. 3 next week, Democrats are sending a clear message that they’re united in their mission to lower costs and are ready to deliver for the American people.” 

Reports Highlight Perils of Junk Insurance Plans During Open Enrollment

Americans shopping for health insurance during open enrollment are being warned about the perils of short-term “junk” insurance plans that cost more and cover less. As reports have made clear this past week, brokers often use deceptive marketing tactics to lure people into purchasing these seemingly lower-cost plans, which end up not covering pre-existing conditions and saddling patients with high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. The Trump administration and Republicans have pushed and advocated for these types of junk plans that undermine Americans’ health care. 

Anchorage Daily News (Alaska): Opinion: Alaskans Put At Risk By Junk Health Care Plans. “Junk plans are bad for Alaskans, plain and simple. Designed to skirt the Affordable Care Act’s vital consumer protections, they do not have to provide comprehensive coverage, and they allow insurers to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. When junk plans are allowed to proliferate, consumers are often led to websites where brokers sell non-ACA compliant health insurance plans. Patients end up saddled with huge medical bills when they find out their insurance won’t cover basic things like hospitalization or prescription drugs, sometimes leading to bankruptcy.” [Anchorage Daily News, 11/28/19]

MPR News (Minnesota): Substandard Health Insurance Comes With Low Premiums But High Risk.“Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley said his office has been getting complaints. ‘People were trying to save some money on a plan and then discovered that they were actually going to have to spend more because something wasn’t covered,’ Kelley said.” [MPR News, 11/25/19

Houston Chronicle (Texas): Risky Business: Buying Health Insurance In The New Age Of Deregulation. “Under the Trump administration, significant portions of the individual insurance market have been deregulated and rules governing the federal health care law known as Obamacare rolled back. The goal is to deliver on an administration promise of lower premiums and greater choice. The trade-off, though, is a return to a past when polices came with restrictions and exemptions tucked inside, limiting coverage for pre-existing conditions, prescription drugs, hospitalization and preventative care…Further, because these plans operate outside the rules of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies backing them can spend less on customer medical claims and pocket a bigger share of premiums for overhead and profit.” [Houston Chronicle, 11/27/19

Pennlive (Pennsylvania): Shopping For Health Insurance? Be Wary Of Being Led Into ‘Junk Plans,’ Sen. Bob Casey Jr. Says. It’s the time of year when many Americans are shopping for health insurance and it can be a confusing and daunting task. It’s made more difficult by online advertisements designed to mislead consumers, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa. In particular, some of these searches direct customers to “junk plans” that may not cover pre-existing conditions, Casey said.” [Pennlive, 12/2/19

Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania): He Didn’t Know He Had A Pre-Existing Condition – Until His Insurer Rejected His $35,000 Hospital Bill. “Once a common practice, the Affordable Care Act banned major medical plans from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, or medical issues that existed before enrollment. But LaFrance didn’t have major medical insurance. He’d mistakenly purchased short-term limited-duration insurance, a type of plan that has become more readily available under the Trump administration. It’s less expensive, but also less regulated, and is allowed to refuse to pay for services related to pre-existing conditions.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/25/19

Trump Effect: Tennessee Asks Trump Administration to Turn Medicaid Into A Block Grant

Washington, DC — Today, Tennessee formally asked the Trump administration to convert the state’s Medicaid program into a block grant. These so-called block grants being pushed by the Trump administration are seen by health care experts as blatant attempts to gut coverage and kick people off the rolls, and have repeatedly been rejected by Congress. In response, Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement:

“The multi-pronged attack on Medicaid by Tennessee Republicans and the Trump administration should tell you everything about the motives behind this latest proposal: kick people off the rolls, tear apart the foundations of the program, and watch Americans who rely on coverage through Medicaid suffer. This push to turn Medicaid into block grants, — along with promoting junk plans, working to repeal the ACA, and the reckless Texas lawsuit — is just another front in the Trump-Republican war on health care. Initiating block grants isn’t about improving or reforming health care; it’s about ripping coverage away from more Americans, plain and simple.”

BACKGROUND:

Experts And Health Advocates Warn That This Plan Would Wreak Havoc On Tennesseans’ Health Care: 

Michele Johnson, Executive Director Of The Tennessee Justice Center, Said That The Proposal Would Be “Devastating For Our Health Care Infrastructure, For The Tennessee Economy, And For Our Communities.” “Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, a group representing vulnerable residents needing health care and other assistance, said the proposed changes to TennCare would be ‘devastating for our health infrastructure, for the Tennessee economy, and for our communities.” [Washington Post, 9/17/19

More Than Two Dozen Health Advocacy Groups Warned CMS That Block Grants “Will Reduce Access To Quality And Affordable Healthcare For Patients With Serious And Chronic Health Conditions.” “Moving to a block grant or per capita cap would also have widespread negative impacts on state economies. Cuts to Medicaid will not only impact those enrolled, but the entire healthcare system, as many critical healthcare entities, such as children’s hospitals, rely on Medicaid financing for their financial stability. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion has led to significant reductions in uncompensated care costs and reduced the likelihood of hospital closures, especially in rural areas – progress that could be lost under block grant and per capita cap policies. Our organizations are concerned that CMS has not adequately considered these negative impacts. Finally, our organizations believe that the Administration does not have the authority to allow states to implement block grants or per capita caps through the 1115 waiver process. The Secretary is not permitted to waive Sections 1903 and 1905, where the financing structure of the Medicaid program is located, through these types of waivers. Such a change would require congressional authority, yet Congress has repeatedly declined to pass legislation on this issue, most recently during the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in 2017. Simply put, block grants and per capita caps will reduce access to quality and affordable healthcare for patients with serious and chronic health conditions and are therefore unacceptable to our organizations.” [American Lung Association et. al. letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, 7/18/19

Nashville Tennessean: Governor’s Plan To Implement Block Grant Proposal Would “Almost Certainly” Change Medicaid Coverage. “The whole point of the block grant proposal is that Tennessee officials think they can run their state Medicaid program better than the federal government. If the block grant proposal is enacted, the state government would likely gain control over who is eligible for TennCare and which medications and treatment are covered. State officials could potentially decide to stop paying for a medication that is now covered or start covering a procedure that is currently outside the scope of TennCare.”  [Nashville Tennessean, 8/25/19

Robin Rudowitz, A Medicaid Analyst At The Kaiser Family Foundation, Said Block Grants Run Counter To “Core Principles” Of Medicaid. “’There are two foundational things in Medicaid—an entitlement for all individuals eligible for coverage, and a guarantee to states of federal matching dollars,’ said Robin Rudowitz, a Medicaid analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation. ‘Block grants run counter to both of those core principles.’”  [Modern Healthcare, 5/7/19

Two Major Tennessee Hospital Groups Expressed Concern That Block Grant Proposal Would Weaken Health Insurance For Families. “Two major Tennessee hospital companies say a plan to convert billions of federal Medicaid funding to a block grant may weaken health insurance for poor families or cause TennCare to run out of money during an economic recession. […] For this story, The Tennessean contacted about a dozen Tennessee hospital companies seeking comment from their executives about the block grant proposal. Interviews were conducted with experts at Saint Thomas Health in Nashville and Baptist Memorial Health Care in Memphis, both of whom expressed concerns, and with the CEO of Ballad Health in East Tennessee, which was supportive.” [Nashville Tennessean, 9/12/19

Republican State Senator And Cardiothoracic Surgeon Richard Briggs Said “A Straight Block Grant Could Be Very Dangerous.” “’A straight block grant could be very dangerous,’ said Briggs, who for the past few years has unsuccessfully pushed for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. ‘If we go into a recession—and we’re due for one—there will be more people going into Medicaid, and the state would have to make up revenues to cover them.’” [Modern Healthcare, 5/7/19

SHOT/CHASER: PhRMA Rakes In Record High Revenue To Keep Drug Prices High While 58 Million Americans Say They Can’t Afford Their Prescriptions

SHOT: GALLUP Poll: 58 Million Adults Have Been Unable To Afford Prescribed Drugs At Least Once In The Last 12 months. “Dovetailing with these results is a rising percentage of adults who report not having had enough money in the past 12 months to ‘pay for needed medicine or drugs that a doctor prescribed’ to them. This percentage has increased significantly, from 18.9% in January 2019 to 22.9% in September. In all, the 22.9% represents about 58 million adults who experienced ‘medication insecurity,’ defined as the inability to pay for prescribed medication at least one time in the past 12 months.” [Gallup, 11/12/19] 

CHASER: AXIOS: “The drug industry lobbying group PhRMA registered $460 million of revenue in 2018, a shade more than 2017, according to its latest tax returns obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.” [Axios, 11/18/19

NEW ADS: Ten New Districts Added to Protect Our Care’s Ad Campaign Thanking Members of Congress for Leading the Fight to Lower Prescription Drug Costs and Protect People With Pre-Existing Conditions

Ad Campaign Now Covers Twenty House Districts and Totals $4 Million

Watch New Ads HERE

Washington, DC — Protect Our Care (POC) added ten new districts to its digital advertising campaign in support of freshman members of Congress who are leading the fight to lower prescription drug costs and protect people with pre-existing conditions. POC’s $2 million expansion brings the organization’s investment in this campaign to $4 million covering 20 House districts of freshmen Democrats who ran and won on the issue of health care in 2018 and who have led the fight to improve American health care since joining the House earlier this year.

The districts added today are part of the House Education and Leadership Project (HELP), which Protect Our Care launched in September with an initial ten congressional districts. The campaign seeks to show constituents how their newly elected representative is delivering on their promises to protect care and lower costs in order to encourage the entire Congress to do the same. The latest round of ads begins with a focus on these Members’ work to lower prescription drug costs, specifically their support for giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prices (H.R 3) and efforts to rein in drug and insurance companies. The full campaign includes a series of 15- and 30-second ads. 

“Millions of Americans who worry about the rising costs of health care should know that these members of Congress are working to lower the costs of prescription drugs and end the rigged system created by big drug and insurance companies,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “While the White House and Congressional Republicans oppose effective and popular solutions like giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices, these members are delivering on their promise to lower costs and protect Americans’ health care.” 

The HELP campaign now includes these ten additional districts and kicks off with a 15 second ad on reducing drug prices:

Angie Craig (MN-02)

Sharice Davids (KS-03)

Antonio Delgado (NY-19)

Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07)

Jared Golden (ME-02)

Susie Lee (NV-03)

Elaine Luria (VA-02)

Lucy McBath (GA-06)

Chris Pappas (NH-01)

Susan Wild (PA-07)

The new ads will also run in districts included in the original campaign announcement:

Colin Allred (TX-32)

Cindy Axne (IA-03)

Abby Finkenauer (IA-01)

Andy Kim (NJ-03)

Katie Porter (CA-45)

Elissa Slotkin (MI-08)

Abigail Spanberger (VA-07)

Haley Stevens (MI-11)

Lauren Underwood (IL-14)

Ad Script:

Representative Elissa Slotkin is standing up to big drug companies.

She’s fighting to give Medicare the power to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, reducing your costs by as much as 55%.

Thank her for leading the fight to lower your drug prices.

Louisiana Voters Reject Trump’s Sabotage Agenda

Washington, DC — Tonight, Louisiana voters went to the polls and rejected Trump’s sabotage agenda and the Republican candidate, Eddie Rispone. In response, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“President Trump’s disastrous health care agenda was front and center this election and voters in Louisiana soundly rejected it by denying the governorship to a Republican who supports the president’s war on health care. In Virginia, Kentucky, and now Louisiana voters have sent a message that they support Medicaid expansion, ensuring protections for pre-existing conditions and want nothing to do with Republicans’ efforts to sabotage their health care. This election sends a warning to Trump and Republicans across the country that their repeated attacks on Americans’ health care will continue to cost them at the ballot box.”

Trump Administration’s New Rules Won’t Lower Prices For Patients

Washington, DC — Today, President Trump is rolling out new price transparency rules for insurers and hospitals. However, these rules won’t actually lower patients’ prices. In response to their announcement, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“Every person who has ever spent time in the hospital knows they have no ability to shop around or negotiate for a lower price. Meanwhile, the Trump administration opposes the single most powerful tool to reduce people’s health care costs — Medicare negotiating for lower prescription drug prices — which would save patients $158 billion. These new rules are nothing more than another attempt by this administration to mislead the American people about their relentless sabotage agenda.” 

SHOT/CHASER: Verma Claims Millions of Taxpayer Dollars Spent on Personal Brand Necessary to “Get on a Good Footing” While Spending Her First Year at CMS Sabotaging Americans’ Health Care

SHOT: CMS Administrator Seema Verma Spent Millions Of Taxpayer Dollars To “Get On A Good Footing” And Promote Personal Brand Early On In Trump Administration. [The Hill, 11/12/19]

CHASER: During Her First Year In Office, Verma: 

  • Cut the number of days people could sign up for coverage during open enrollment by half, from 90 days to 45 days.
  • Slashed the outreach advertising budget for Open Enrollment by 90 percent, from $100 million to just $10 million – which resulted in as many as 1.1 million fewer people getting covered.
  • Announced support for states imposing onerous work requirements and approved Kentucky’s worst-in-the-nation waiver the very next day.

LIME: CNBC: Rate Of Uninsured Americans Rises For The First Time Since Obamacare Took Effect In 2014. [CNBC, 9/10/19

For more on the Trump administration’s war on health care, see our sabotage tracker

SHOT/CHASER: People Can’t Afford Prescription Drugs, Trump Opposes Lower Costs

New GALLUP data today revealed that 58 million people were unable to afford medicine that they were prescribed in the past year. Sure enough, President Trump is siding with big drug companies to oppose the “Lower Drug Costs Act (H.R. 3)” which allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for people on Medicare and people on private insurance. The nonpartisan CBO says it reduces the most expensive drugs by as much as 55 percent. 

SHOT: GALLUP: “The survey also found that 58 million people, roughly one-quarter of all U.S. adults, were unable to pay for drugs they were prescribed during the last 12 months.” [GALLUP, 11/12/19

CHASER: MARKETWATCH: “White House rejects Pelosi’s plan to lower drug prices” [Marketwatch, 11/5/19

LIME: POLITICO: “Federal health contract funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump allies” [POLITICO, 11/12/19

White House Puts Politics Over Popular and Effective Measures To Lower Drug Prices

Washington, DC — Speaking at a conference today, a senior White House official claimed House Democrats’ landmark bill giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices is “unworkable” and “hyper-partisan.” In a recent poll by Hart Research for Protect Our Care, 77% of Americans, including 54% of Republicans supported giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices for all Americans. In response, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement: 

“The only ones being ‘hyper-partisan’ in the debate over lowering drug prices are President Trump and his Republican allies who continue to put big pharma profits over patients. The American people overwhelmingly support the measures put forward in the House Democrats’ bill to lower drug costs, including giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices, and reining in drug and insurance companies. It’s clear to the American people that the Trump administration hasn’t lifted a finger to tackle prescription drug costs. Their failure to even consider the effective and popular measures in the House bill proves the Trump administration has no interest in making progress or solving this problem.” 

BACKGROUND:

Recent national polling from Hart Research Associates for Protect Our Care of 1,000 voters confirms the provisions of H.R. 3 are supported by the majority of Americans across the political spectrum. 

  • 77% of Americans support giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices for all consumers.
  • 77% of Americans support Democrats’ proposal to use the savings Medicare would achieve by negotiating for lower drug prices to provide vision, dental and hearing benefits for seniors. 
  • 97% of Americans support the H.R. 3 provision preventing drug companies from charging Americans more for the same drug than they charge people in other countries.