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Congresswoman Wexton Votes to Lower Prescription Drug Costs, Strengthen Affordable Care Act

H.R. 987 includes two amendments authored by Congresswoman Wexton

Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (VA-10) voted in favor of H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, a major piece of legislation that addresses two top concerns of the American people--lowering prescription drug prices and defending vital protections for people with pre-existing conditions.  

H.R. 987 passed the House this evening and included two amendments authored by Congresswoman Wexton that were both included in the final bill.

“Today, the House passed important, common sense legislation to lower healthcare and prescription drug costs,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “My colleagues and I are offering real legislative solutions that will lower the cost of healthcare. I came to Congress on a promise to protect healthcare for Virginians, today’s vote is just one part of keeping that promise.”

One of the Congresswoman’s amendments would add findings to the text of the bill regarding  the expansion of the sale and marketing of short-term, limited duration insurance, known as junk plans, which weaken protections for the millions of Americans with pre-existing health conditions. This amendment calls special attention to the impact these dangerous plans have on children with complex medical needs and disabilities and their families.
WATCH: Congresswoman Wexton speaks on the house floor in favor of her amendment on Congressional findings.

Another amendment, offered with Congressman Joseph Morelle (NY-25), requires a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on how funding cuts to the Navigator program and to marketing and outreach efforts for the Affordable Care Act have impacted health insurance enrollment and the cost of coverage on the individual market.
WATCH: Congresswoman Wexton speaks on the house floor in favor of her amendment requiring a GAO report.

Navigator funding in Virginia has been reduced by an astounding 76 percent between 2016 and 2018--down from approximately $2.2 million in 2016 to just $525,000 in 2018.

Background on H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act:

H.R. 987 includes three bills to lower prescription drug costs by helping lower-priced generic drugs get to market faster and 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 healthcare 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. For example, 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 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.”

The bipartisan legislative package also includes the following four measures to improve our healthcare system by revoking the Junk Plan rule, thereby reinforcing protections for pre-existing conditions; expanding the number of individuals with quality, affordable coverage; 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 healthcare system.
  • The MORE Health Education Act & The ENROLL Act:  These bills, containing provisions similar to provisions in the bipartisan Alexander-Murray proposal put forward in the Senate in the last Congress, restore critical funding for marketplace consumer outreach and enrollment education activities, as well as critical funding for the Navigator program, both of which the Trump Administration has slashed.  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.  A recent KFF poll finds that, by 53% to 37%, Republicans oppose junk plans.