Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) is leading the charge among members of the US House of Representatives in pursuit of sweeping legislation to address the problem of outrageous drug problems. He is the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.
In an opening statement earlier this morning, Brady told members of the media including USA Daily Post:
“Nine years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, health care still remains the number one concern of Americans across the country. The reason ‘why’ almost always comes back to rising out-of-pocket costs.
“Republicans on this Committee stand ready to continue working with our Democrat colleagues to tackle these concerns and fix our nation’s health care system.
“Republicans are proud to be the party in Congress that led the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the lifesaving Prescription Drug Program for Medicare, the Medicare Advantage program that 20 million seniors depend upon, and the law that originally created the pre-existing conditions protections that workers enjoy today.
“We know that our health care industry today needs a major shakeup. And the rising costs of drugs – medicines that patients rely on – means we need immediate and commonsense reforms.
“We often hear a myriad of reasons why the costs of life-saving medicines are so high from those involved in the drug supply chain.
“Instead of pointing fingers at each other, everyone in the medical community should be identifying what they can do to reduce the cost of drugs for patients.
“Every actor in the drug supply chain and across the health care landscape has to take accountability for these unacceptable out-of-pocket costs.
“Because it is not the drug company, the middle-man, the prescriber, or the pharmacist that ends up bearing these high costs – it is the patient who, through no fault of their own, can end up having to shoulder a burden they cannot financially bear.
“This is not fair to a grandmother who has to start working again just to afford the costs of medicines she needs to survive.
“Nor for a single dad who has to skip his kid’s soccer game because he’s forced to pick up extra shifts at work just to afford his prescriptions.
“We must do better as we work to protect patients and lower health care costs.
“Congress needs to continue working together to lower out-of-pocket health care costs for Americans by cracking down on overpriced drugs, empowering patients to choose the most affordable medicines for them, and eliminating incentives in Medicare that reward bad actors and lead to higher prices.
“Additionally, to protect the hope of future medical breakthroughs, Republicans reject Washington price controls because that will limit Americans’ access to life-saving medicines many families are counting on.
“The first step in cracking down on overpriced drugs are what we are proposing today: to give the public and Congress more information about how drugs are priced and paid for.
“Our bill today provides more transparency into drug rebates, more accuracy about drug costs to hospitals and doctors, and more information about drug pricing spikes and high initial prices.
“The public deserves accurate information directly from the source why these drugs require such a high price tag.
“Americans want to see more cures and life-saving medical innovation, and we need to better understand how valuable these remarkable achievements are relative to current treatments.
“Promoting access to new life saving treatments is a shared goal at this Committee, and requires a balance of supporting innovation while also ensuring affordability for Americans.
“But we know that openness creates informed consumers; and free market competition helps lower drug prices and out-of-pocket costs.
“I’m thankful that Republicans and Democrats came together to start this conversation on how to tackle and lower these unacceptable costs.
“But today’s bill is simply step one. The legislation before us is not perfect, and it should not be the end of this conversation. There will be more reforms ahead.
“And Chairman Neal, I ask you today for your commitment to continue working with Republicans on this bill and this important issue.
“Because there are many ideas Republicans have brought forward that did not make it into today’s bill.
“Such as real-time transparency tools, because patients deserve to know how much they are going to have to pay before they take their prescription script to the pharmacist. As well as making sure cancer patients don’t pay more for their chemotherapy treatment based on the site of the service, and fixing broken incentives throughout Medicare that may encourage increases in drug prices.
“But increasing price transparency in the prescription drug supply chain is a crucial starting point as we continue to improve our nation’s health care system.
Later today, the House Committee on Ways & Means unanimously passed the bipartisan Prescription Drug STAR Act. H.R. 2113 addresses important issues related to transparency and public reporting of information in order to improve accountability and ensure consumers, purchasers, payers, and taxpayers have a better understanding of this opaque market.
According to a statement:
“The STAR Act would:
- “Require drug manufacturers to publicly justify large price increases for existing drugs and high initial prices for new drugs.
- “Require applicable manufacturers to report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services the total aggregate monetary value and quantity of samples provided to certain health care providers for patient use.
- “Require the Secretary to conduct a study on hospital inpatient (Medicare Part A) drug costs, including trends by hospital type (e.g. rural vs. urban) and the impact of drug shortages.
- “Require the Secretary to publicly disclose the aggregate rebates, discounts, and other price concessions achieved by pharmaceutical benefits managers (PBMs) on a public website, so consumers, employers, and other payers can understand and compare the discounts PBMs receive.
- “Require all drug manufacturers to submit information to the Secretary on the average sales price (ASP) for physician-administered drugs covered under Medicare Part B.”