Bustos, House Democrats Pass Legislation to Bring Down the Cost of Health Care and Prescription Drugs

Last Week, House Passed Additional Legislation to Rein in Prescription Drug Prices and Protect Health Care for People with Pre-Existing Conditions

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and House Democrats passed major legislation to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs – delivering on a key commitment to the American people. H.R. 987 – the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act – would enable more affordable generic prescription drugs to get to the market sooner, reverse the White House’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) enrollment efforts and crack down on junk insurance plans that refuse to cover pre-existing conditions and raise costs for consumers.

“The American people sent us here to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs – and that’s exactly what House Democrats are doing,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Today’s commonsense bill will improve the Affordable Care Act, bring down prescription drug costs and crack down on junk insurance plans – promoted by Washington Republicans – that don’t cover pre-existing conditions. The contrast is clear – while the White House and Washington Republicans sow chaos that raises costs for families, House Democrats are working on solutions to make health care more affordable for Illinoisans and folks across the country.”

BACKGROUND

The Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act is a package of seven bills that follows through on Congresswoman Bustos’ commitment to commonsense health care solutions that bring costs down for Illinois families.

This legislation combines three bills to reduce prescription drug costs by helping lower-priced generic drugs get to market faster and also includes four measures to reinforce the protections for people with pre-existing conditions and expand enrollment in quality, affordable coverage to more Americans. This bipartisan package invests most of the savings created by the bills promoting generic competition into strengthening our health care system by increasing enrollment in quality coverage and helping interested states set up their own state-based marketplaces, which outperform the federal marketplace.

Getting more lower-priced generic drugs into the prescription drug market is a key way to create billions of dollars in cost savings for consumers and taxpayers. In 2017 alone, the entry of generic drugs into the market saved consumers and taxpayers a total of $265 billion. According to one estimate, the average drug price decreases by 50 percent in the first year of generic entry, with an 80 percent reduction in five years.

The bipartisan legislative package includes the following three key drug pricing measures to remove barriers to lower-priced generic drugs getting to market and competing with brand-name drugs, thereby creating significant savings for consumers:

  • The CREATES Act: Currently, certain brand-name manufacturers use tactics to withhold or delay generic manufacturers getting from them the brand drug samples they need to develop their generic products. This bill establishes a process by which generic manufacturers are able to obtain sufficient quantities of the brand drug samples, thereby blocking these delaying tactics.
  • The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act: Currently, brand-name drug manufacturers can enter into a “pay-for-delay” agreement in which the brand-name manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer to delay bringing a generic equivalent to market, significantly hurting consumers. This bill makes these “pay-for-delay” agreements illegal.
  • The BLOCKING Act: Currently, the first generic applicant to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is granted 180 days of market exclusivity, but some generics then fail to move the product to market, called “parking” – thereby blocking other generics from applying to FDA. This bill allows generics to get to market earlier by changing the rules on “parking.”

This legislation also includes the following four measures to improve our health care system by revoking Washington Republicans’ rule promoting junk insurance plans, thereby reinforcing protections for pre-existing conditions; expanding coverage and bringing costs down; and helping more states create state-based marketplaces:

  • The SAVE Act: This bipartisan bill appropriates $200 million to assist interested states in creating their own state-based marketplaces. State-based marketplaces are outperforming the Federal marketplace, achieving lower premiums and higher enrollment. This bill empowers states to implement new approaches that lower costs and expand coverage for American families, thereby improving our health care system.
  • The MORE Health Education Act & The ENROLL Act: These bills, containing provisions similar to the bipartisan Alexander-Murray proposal put forward in the Senate last Congress, restore critical funding for marketplace consumer outreach and enrollment education activities – as well as for the Navigator program – both of which the Trump Administration has slashed. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates this funding will result in about 500,000 additional enrollees in nongroup quality, affordable coverage and Medicaid each year over the next 10 years.
  • Rescinding the Trump Administration’s Devastating Junk Plan Rule: This bill reinforces the protections for people with pre-existing conditions by revoking the Trump Administration’s rule that promotes the sale of junk plans, which discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and do not cover essential benefits.

Patient and health care advocates have endorsed the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, including:

AARP

“This legislation is an important step towards lowering prescription drug costs and protecting the health care of millions of Americans who get their coverage through the individual market. […] This bill, H.R. 987 includes needed legislation to roll back recent Administration rules and guidance, such as the short-term plan rule, that jeopardize the ACA’s critical consumer protections. We have repeatedly raised concern about the expansion of short-term plans that lack consumer protections and would once again allow insurance companies to charge much more due to age or a pre-existing condition.”

American Hospital Association

“On behalf of nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations […], the American Hospital Association applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for considering the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, which will help lower prescription drug costs and strengthen the Affordable Care Act marketplaces to improve access and lower the cost of coverage for consumers.”

SEIU

“This bill would protect and expand access to affordable and quality health care, as well as help to reduce the costs of prescription drugs.  After years of the Administration’s politically driven healthcare sabotage, it is important that Congress take immediate action to strengthen the American healthcare system.  H.R. 987 is a first step in that effort.  Among other priorities, H.R. 987 would provide funding to states to establish state-based Affordable Care Act marketplaces and for outreach and enrollment activities, such as the Navigator programs that educate the public about their health care options and provide assistance to enroll people in coverage.”

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

“We support this important bill because it would reduce drug costs for Americans including seniors and would stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces, which offer health insurance to millions of Americans.”

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