WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) delivered the following remarks at a Health Subcommittee hearing today, “Making Prescription Drugs More Affordable: Legislation to Negotiate a Better Deal for Americans.”
There is no debate about the fact that Republicans and Democrats want to work together to lower drug costs for consumers. We also believe in innovation, and we believe in stopping bad actors.
Madame Chair, I have to strongly express my great frustration about the decision to sabotage both the great traditions of this Committee and the bipartisan work that–you know–was well underway to tackle the high cost of drugs. Our teams were working well together to find solutions that could become law. They were negotiating modernizing Medicare Part D, and then we went into radio silence.
Under Chairman Upton’s leadership and mine, we wrote durable laws together to increase innovation, to find cures to diseases and stop the scams by some companies that kept competition out of the marketplace. We all know there is more work to do. We’ve worked in a bipartisan way, up until now, on those efforts. We did it on CREATES. We did it on pay-for-delay. We did it on blocking, and we were doing it on these other issues.
I thought we were heading in good faith down that same path, until the Speaker’s office dropped this partisan plan on our process. We were not privy to any of this and I’m not sure you all were.
Congress needs to work together with President Trump – I’ve never seen a president lean forward more on an issue like this than him. We can agree and disagree on different points, but he wants to sign a bill that will work.
Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re doing this morning. These are hard words for me to say because you are my friends, but this is partisan politics at its worst and it’s an avoidable failure. A failure to build on our bipartisan progress to lower prescription drug prices for consumers.
With a bipartisan and inclusive process, Republicans have previously worked with Democrats to push for legislation that promotes competition, lowers out-of-pocket costs for consumers, and establishes transparency and accountability in drug pricing. We worked together to pass the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 and the FDA Reauthorization Act in 2017 that opened the door to more generics being approved in one year than in the history of the FDA and we did that in a bipartisan way.
In this Committee, we passed CREATES to stop bad behavior and then the Speaker’s office shoved in a poison pill to make Republicans vote no on the floor, and the same thing with other legislation. Our work last Congress, as I said, resulted in the FDA approving a record number of affordable generic drugs last year, including the first generic competitor to the EpiPen.
My friend from Oregon, Mr. Schrader, helped lead that effort to say that if you have a medical device and there’s no competitor, we’ll put you at the front of the approval list.
If you look over the past year and a half at the legislation that has become law and what has passed the House, our bipartisan policies have added up to $24 billion in savings to the federal government and lower prices for consumers. And there is more we can do, together…if you will come back to the table.
Many may not know this, but before Speaker Pelosi began to write her partisan plan behind closed doors, the Republicans and Democrats on this committee have been working together, drafting policies in good faith that we believed, and the majority indicated, could receive unanimous support in the committee.
These polices essentially mirror about 90% of the legislation that our colleagues in Senate Finance have been working on, and about 92% of the of what the HELP committee in the Senate have been working on. We were very close. Some of those policies included immense benefit to our nation’s seniors in the form of modernizing the Medicare Part D program and providing an out-of-pocket-spending cap for seniors so you would always know what the limit was. But those bipartisan negotiations came to an abrupt halt.
Why were you forced to walk away from the table? We wanted and still want to work with you on addressing this issue for the American people. But now we have before us a partisan plan that puts politics over progress.
Are you even able to negotiate from here? Or is this it? Take it or leave it? Are you willing to make substantive changes so we can reach bipartisan agreement? Or is this the end? Check a box. Score a political point. Move on.
We don’t know because you haven’t told us. Frankly, I’m not sure you know yourselves. I think it is unfortunate that you were forced to pursue the Speaker’s strategy and not let our productive, bipartisan discussions continued. They stopped; they’ve halted. We all know it.
Now, when it comes to setting prices, I was on the Committee when we passed Medicare Part D. It was a huge fight, it’s true. And there was a decision made to establish the program the way it is, and Democrats did want to set prices. In fact, they wanted to put in statute the Part D premium and index it to inflation – $35 in 2006. Had they done that, it’d be $46 today. This week, Medicare announced the premium in 2020 will be $30 per month, not $35, and certainly not $46. That’s about a third lower for seniors than if you had followed the Democrats’ plan to lock it in statute.
There’s a way to make the free market work for consumers. There’s a way to save for seniors. We remain committed to doing that, once this process plays itself out.
I yield back.