Lowering Health Costs and Prescription Drug Prices
Hello Folks –
I hope you all are staying safe and taking care of yourselves.
As I write this, I’m in D.C. - and I’ll tell you, I was happy to wear a mask on the five-hour flight across the country. Wearing a mask when you’re out in public can help slow the spread of COVID-19 (one of my favorite reads this week: Top 10 Reasons to Wear a Mask)!
While my wife, Jen, has been sewing masks, I haven’t yet convinced her to participate in the Washington Mask Challenge run by the Lt. Governor, the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest, and Serve Washington, to get more masks to folks in need – it’s a great idea!
And as a big Star Wars fan (and fan of The Mandalorian) I’m prepared to say it – wearing a mask can be cool.
This is the way!
Now, on to the news!
Making Sure All Americans Can Have Quality, Affordable Health Care
Over the last few months, this public health crisis has exacerbated the health care problems in our country. For too long, too many have struggled to get adequate, affordable care. That’s why it was shocking to see the Trump Administration move forward with its push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last week. I wasn’t in Congress when the ACA passed - and I don’t think the law is perfect. But the overall impact of the ACA has been undeniably positive; expanding coverage and securing critical protections for millions of Americans. Among other things, this law prevented insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, covered preventative care without co-pay, allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until their 26th birthday, and treated and covered mental health the same as physical health issues.
These protections are critically important – particularly in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. And yet, last Thursday – on the very day our country broke its record for new daily coronavirus cases – the Trump Administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate the ACA. In my view, that’s undeniably bad for the folks I represent. In fact, experts suggest that if the Administration is successful in repealing the ACA, an estimated 23 million Americans could lose their health care coverage and existing protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions would be nullified.
Rather than unwinding the progress that’s been made, I think Congress should build on the success of the existing law. That’s why today, the House is moving forward with new legislation to build on the ACA to lower health costs and prescription drug prices: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act.
This legislation is all about helping middle-class American families get affordable health care. Among other things, this bill will:
- Lower health coverage costs by decreasing health insurance premiums – many enrollees will see their premiums cut by half or more and, for the first time, no one will have to pay more than 8.5% of their income for a silver plan in the ACA marketplaces;
- Expand Medicaid coverage so more people get the care they need – in addition to protecting folks from losing their coverage, it’s expected that this bill will cover an additional 4-5 million people;
- Fight the maternal mortality epidemic by requiring states to extend coverage to new mothers
- Improve Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to primary care physicians;
- Further reduce racial and ethnic health inequities by expanding coverage and premium assistance to more Black and Hispanic Americans; and
- Reverse the Administration’s expansion of “junk” health insurance plans that do not provide coverage for essential medical treatments and drugs and that are allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Importantly, this bill also takes steps to deliver lower prescription drugs prices and ensuring that Medicare can negotiate lower drug prices and make those prices available to more Americans. That’s a big deal! Over the years, I’ve spoken with far too many people who are grappling with the high costs of prescription drugs. The painful conversations that I have had with people in our region who have been forced to skip doses or cut their pills in half because the costs are simply too high have stuck with me and ultimately inform my approach to these issues. That’s why I’ve been such a strong advocate for reducing drug prices – and it’s another reason why I’m proud to support this bill.
I’m looking forward to voting for it today – and I’m hopeful that the Senate will take action on it soon.
Last Thursday, I was proud to join my colleagues on the steps of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 - a comprehensive bill I helped introduce with the Congressional Black Caucus focused on structural changes to combat police brutality, raise standards, and address racial injustice.
By passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, Congress is taking a first step toward delivering real change – banning chokeholds, prohibiting no-knock warrants, combatting racial profiling, and establishing new standards for policing. I was honored to be able to host Congresswoman Karen Bass, the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to talk about the key components of the bill - and to answer questions from folks in Port Hadlock, Tacoma, Hoquiam, and Port Angeles. Catch the conversation here:
While there is no single policy that will rectify centuries of systemic racism and reform policing, this legislation moves us further down the path toward justice. I was proud to help introduce it and vote for it last week.
Working for You
Supporting Our Teachers and Our Kids
Last Monday, I had an informative town hall conversation with Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal about the challenges facing our education system, my ongoing work to provide support to our educators and our kids, and the state’s new guidance on reopening schools. He also answered a ton of questions submitted by folks from all across our region. Check out the conversation below and visit www.k12.wa.us to see OSPI’s COVID-19 guidance and resources for educators, students, and families.
Helping Small Businesses
Last week, I spoke with members of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce to talk about how we can work together to revitalize our economy, support local employers, and ensure workers are empowered to navigate the substantial economic changes ahead. Thanks for having me!
Working to End Poverty
Across our region, passionate local members of RESULTS are working to ensure our “new normal” addresses the poverty and inequities that existed pre-COVID - locally and around the world. I’m grateful for their partnership and appreciated the opportunity to talk about the work we can do together to make our world a better place!
Answering Your Questions
Last Tuesday, I was joined by State Senator Emily Randall for a Facebook Live Town Hall to talk about the response to COVID-19, our work to address the inequities facing Black Americans in our region and across the country, and answer questions from folks across the region. You can re-watch the conversation here. Thanks to everyone who participated!
OK – that’s it for now folks. Take care of yourselves – and one another. And please remember to do your part: wear a face mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
As always, I’m honored to represent you.
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