10.28.19

Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs

Hello Folks -

Earlier this month, Congress and the American people lost an incredible human being and a tireless public servant in Representative Elijah Cummings. Elijah worked so hard for his community and to make government work better. It was an honor to work with him and to consider him a friend.

I think every American should take a few moments to watch the ceremony last week in the United States Capitol celebrating and honoring his life. Democrats and Republicans alike spoke of Elijah’s unwavering service to the people he proudly represented, his commitment to working together despite political differences to find lasting policy solutions, and his devotion to fighting for what’s right to move our country forward.

Elijah spoke often of the stories of those he was fighting for - of the friends and neighbors he met at community gatherings, his church, and in everyday life. He brought those stories with him to Congress and fought tirelessly on their behalf.

His approach served as a reminder to me - and to so many others over the years - to carry the voices of the folks we represent with us to Washington D.C., to vigorously support what’s right, but to show kindness, compassion, and civility to one another.

May Elijah rest in peace.

Read on for details for how I’ve been bringing those values to Congress.

Lowering Prescription Drug Costs

Before his passing, Rep. Cummings was a leading voice in the battle to reduce the costs of prescription drugs. Across this country, we know that rising drug prices are a huge burden for seniors, hardworking families, and everyone in need. Our country has seen amazing innovations that have saved lives and reduced suffering. But far too often, those innovations are out of reach because people can’t afford them. In the greatest country on the planet, no one should be forced to have to skip their medications or choose between food and medicine.

That’s why I’m excited to report that the House is working on a vitally important bill - H.R. 3, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

This bill aims to level the playing field for patients, ensuring they have access to less expensive medications. Beyond that, the bill is expected to save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Let me share some details...

To ensure that we don’t see massive cost hikes and to limit out-of-pocket costs, the bill takes some critical steps. Importantly, it requires our government to negotiate prices directly with the drug companies in hopes of driving down prices. That notion of negotiating isn’t a new idea - it’s a way for government to be more efficient. You’ve seen that drug price negotiation happen within the Veterans Administration. You’ve even seen negotiation required under Medicare for hospitals, doctors, home health agencies, medical equipment providers, and others. But currently, under Medicare, drug companies set their own prices.

To respond to this, H.R. 3 gives Medicare the power to negotiate directly with the drug companies and creates powerful new tools to secure real price reductions. It also makes the lower drug prices negotiated by Medicare available to Americans with private insurance, not just Medicare beneficiaries.

In addition, one of the most common concerns I’ve heard from people is a basic frustration that Americans are charged more than folks in other countries for the same drugs. Historically, we’ve been willing to subsidize poorer nations in hopes of reducing preventable deaths and suffering. But, there’s a real frustration that, under the current system, we are also subsidizing countries like England, France, Germany, Australia, and Japan. That would end under H.R. 3.

Beyond that, the bill creates a new, $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Limiting the amount people pay has the potential to save lives and prevent medical bankruptcies.

Because the bill generates such substantial savings, it enables some of those savings to be reinvested in innovation and the search for new cures and treatments through the National Institutes of Health.

The bill is currently working its way through the committee process (having gone through three committees!). I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to pass this bill in the coming weeks!

As I’ve written previously, the House has passed - and I’ve supported - several other bills to try to reduce drug prices. We’ll keep at it!

Protecting Our Elections

Last week, the House passed the SHIELD Act, a bill I played a lead role in sponsoring to combat interference in American elections. This bill closes loopholes that allow foreign spending in our elections, boosts disclosure and transparency requirements, and creates a duty to report illicit offers of campaign assistance from foreign nations or governments.

As many of you know, I’ve visited every nook and cranny of our region. And I’ve never - ever - heard someone say, “You know, we should make it easy for foreign interests to play a role in American elections.” Rather, in every corner of our region, there’s widespread agreement that foreign interests should have no role in our democracy. That’s not a Democratic notion. It’s not a Republican notion. It’s an American notion.

Sadly, over the past few years, countless intelligence assessments have confirmed vulnerabilities in the American election system and just this week, one of the world’s most prominent social media companies acknowledged that foreign adversaries like Iran, Russia, and China are already actively working to interfere in our next election. That’s why the SHIELD Act is so important.

I was proud to speak on the House floor about the importance of a bill I introduced, the Honest Ads Act, which was included in the SHIELD Act. Sponsored by 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats in the House, and by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner in the Senate, this bill will ensure Americans know who is paying for the online ads they are seeing and make it harder for foreign actors to use the internet to attack our democracy.

I am hopeful that the Senate will take action without delay to further protect our elections.

Advocating for Paid Family Leave

As most of you know, I’m the proud father of two amazing young girls. When my oldest, Sophie, was born on April 4, 2006, my life changed forever (for the better!). In those first few weeks, I felt incredibly lucky to work for an employer that said I could take the time I needed to be with my family. And while Sophie is now a healthy 13-year-old, those first two years involved a lot of medical appointments.

Because of paid parental leave, I didn’t have to worry about whether my job would be there when I came back. I didn’t need to worry about our family’s financial security. My employer had my back. It made me acutely aware of just how critical paid parental leave is, and it made me want to ensure that that my neighbors, friends, and family, have paid family leave too. When you welcome a new family member into the world or have to care for an ill family member, you should be able to have some peace of mind.

Unfortunately, the United States is one of the few countries on the planet that does not have a policy of paid leave for new parents. In fact, just 17 percent of working people have paid family leave through their employers to care for a new child or sick family member.

I’m proud to be from Washington state for a number of reasons, but one thing I’m particularly proud of is that our state is moving to implement a comprehensive paid family and medical leave plan early next year. I believe Congress should move to ensure that no matter where you live, you have access to paid family and medical leave. It's important for families, for moms and dads, for children, and for employers who want to retain skilled workers.

That’s why I’m a proud sponsor of The FAMILY Act to establish a system of paid family and medical leave here in the United States. Research has found that policies like this lead to better family financial stability, a stronger business climate in which more people can participate in the workplace, and a reduction in the use of public assistance programs.

Last week, I was proud to be a Dad-vocate and speak about how important a comprehensive paid family leave program is for our country. I’ll continue to fight that we make progress on this front.

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Working for You

Celebrating Allen AME Church

I enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate two big birthdays at Allen AME Church in Tacoma! Pastor Anthony Steele (shown here with his son) just turned 55. And then this past weekend, the church celebrated its 130th year in Tacoma. Thanks so much to Pastor Steele and the entire Allen AME family for the warm welcome. And happy birthday!

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Advocating for Individuals with Disabilities

The Center for Independence (CFI) serves as an important resource for individuals with disabilities, helping people fully access and participate in the community. I valued the opportunity to visit with the CFI team and to learn more about their priorities. I'm co-sponsoring several bills to ensure individuals with disabilities have educational opportunities and important community-based services. Every person should have an opportunity to fulfill his or her dream.

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Honoring our Super Heroes

It was an honor to join the Olympic College Foundation to say thank you to all of the super heroes supporting our students and this amazing institution.

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Chucking Pumpkins

Have you ever spent your afternoon chucking pumpkins at Hunter Farms?! It. Is. Awesome. This weekend marked my 10th straight year at the Pumpkinfest & North Mason Chamber Catapult Competition. Congratulations to Rainer High School, West Sound Tech and Shelton Latter-Day Saints for some impressive catapults. And thanks to the North Mason Chamber for inviting me to judge the competition!

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Ok, that’s it for now folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek