WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, predicted the U.S. House on Thursday will support legislation offering lower prescription drug costs that includes a provision he authored for low-income senior citizens.
The legislation is named after the late Elijah E. Cummings, 68, the Baltimore, Md.-area congressman and leading advocate for impeaching President Trump, who died two months ago.
Pappas on Wednesday took part in a conference call with reporters and spoke briefly on the House floor regarding H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.
“When I travel around New Hampshire asking constituents what’s on their minds, there’s no topic more urgent or more personal than combating the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs,” Pappas said.
“I’ve heard from a senior who is unable to retire because his life is dependent on drugs that cost $3,000 a month out of pocket. I’ve heard from a mother who shares a painful chronic condition with her daughter, and has to decide every month whose prescription to fill because she can’t fill both on her fixed income.”
The bill would give Medicare the power the negotiate directly with drug companies on the price of up to 250 drugs each year including all insulin medications.
The measure would require pharmaceutical companies to pass on those lower costs not only to seniors but to those who get private health insurance.
It also would create an annual cap of $2,000 a year that seniors would have to pay out of pocket for drugs.
The Pappas provision would automatically enroll low-income seniors on Medicare into the Part D program that provides them with subsidies.
This would apply to seniors who make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“This will ensure they receive this benefit without jumping through bureaucratic hoops,” Pappas said. “It’s time to deliver transformational change and pass H.R. 3 to ensure the health and well-being of the American people.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the measure initially would deliver up to 55 percent discounts on the price of these drugs.
President Trump announced last week that he opposed the bill and would veto it if it got to his desk.
In a White House statement, the legislation said drug makers would be forced to agree to the price discounts or pay a federal excise tax equal to 95 percent of drug sales. As a result, administration officials said some companies would decline to sell some of these medications in the U.S. and this could lead to worse health outcomes for Americans.
“Heavy-handed government intervention may reduce drug prices in the short term, but these savings are not worth the long-term cost of American patients losing access to new lifesaving treatments,” Trump said.
Top aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the bill would be dead on arrival.
As a result, the measure has become one for political messaging in the 2020 election and House liberals successfully pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make late changes to the bill Tuesday.
Pappas said there are 94,270 people enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan in his district.
There are 514,858 people in the 1st Congressional District enrolled in private health insurance and Pappas said both groups could benefit from the bill.
House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair David N. Cicilline, D-R.I., joined Pappas on the conference call Wednesday
“Pharmaceutical companies have continued to increase their profits for years at the expense of hardworking folks that need simply their prescriptions to live,” Cicilline said.
“The passage of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act will finally put an end to this price gouging that sees American patients and taxpayers paying more for their prescription drugs than people in other countries. I would like to commend Congressman Pappas on his leadership on this issue.”