Every American has a right to quality healthcare. Plain and simple. I feel very strongly that access to healthcare is a right in this country, and not a privilege. The Affordable Care Act was not perfect, but it was a step in the right direction in expanding coverage to millions of Americans who did not have access before. We should be building off the progress we made towards a Medicare for All universal healthcare system, rather than attacking protections for people with pre-existing conditions like the Trump Administration has chosen to do.
I’ve been proud to lead the fight for Medicare for All in Congress, and we’ve made incredible progress so far. In 1945, John Dingell, Sr. introduced the first universal healthcare bill. Every Congress, John Dingell, Jr. introduced one as well. The fight for universal healthcare saw significant victories with Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the Affordable Care Act. But millions of Americans are frightened about pre-existing conditions, escalating prescription drug costs, terrifying out-of-pocket costs, and what happens to their coverage if they lose their job. The time is now to ensure every American has quality healthcare. Under my leadership, we have had four hearings on the bill – the first hearings ever on Medicare for All. We’re working hard to make this vision a reality for the American people.
It is also essential that we take immediate action to lower the cost of prescription drugs. This is the top issue that I hear about from my constituents in Michigan. I will never forget the mother who came to me with her red inhaler – a device that will save her life if she needs it. But she is struggling to afford the costs of her inhaler, as they have skyrocketed to over $700. This is unacceptable. Nobody should have to choose between putting food on the table for their families and affording the medicines they need to live a safe and healthy life. That is why I am proud to support H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. This landmark legislation – which has passed the House – will give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries and Michiganders with private insurance. Right now, drug prices in the US are nearly four times higher than the combined average of 11 other similar countries, and Americans pay as much as 67 times more than consumers in other nations for prescription drugs. Through allowing Medicare to directly negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, H.R. 3 will save patients and seniors $120 billion. This is the reform that American families have been waiting for.
For too long, the opioid crisis ravaged every corner of our country. I’ve lived all sides of the epidemic and I know the horrible pain, desperation, and frustration of living with a family member with addiction and the sadness of ultimately losing someone you love. But I also live with a man in intense pain who must use opioids because there are no other alternatives. We must ensure the pendulum does not swing too far in one direction. The Congress passed and the President signed, a strong bipartisan package to begin addressing the opioid epidemic, including three bills I introduced with Michigan Republicans: the Advancing Cutting-Edge (ACE) Research Act, Jessie’s Law and the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act. They will spur research into non-addictive pain medications, they will provide medical providers with the information they need to treat patients, and they will help prevent the diversion of unused prescription drugs. But much more must be done. Tackling the opioid epidemic needs a comprehensive approach that includes putting real dollars behind treatment and addressing mental health crisis in this country.
Finally, I have also worked in a bipartisan manner to address the long-term care crisis in this country. Seniors, families and caregivers are often desperate, stressed and don’t know where to turn. I’m proud that President Trump signed my bipartisan legislation into law that would extend two critical programs that help keep families in their homes, which is the preferred care setting for many, and also ensure that families don’t have to go bankrupt to get the care they need. The Sustaining Excellence in Medicaid Act, which President Trump signed into law on August 6, 2019, extends the critical Money Follows the Person program, as well as critical spousal impoverishment protections that are so essential to so many families. This is just one small piece of the puzzle towards fixing our broken long-term care system.