Washington D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) delivered the following floor statement on H.R. 1425, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act.
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As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Our constituents are looking for us to put aside partisan politics, stop playing political games, and find common ground to address the unprecedented. deadly challenges caused by COVID-19.
We need to work together to lower prescription drug prices; aid states in stabilizing health markets damaged by the ACA; lower out-of-pocket costs for patients – including capping seniors’ drug costs – encourage participation in private health insurance; fund our community health centers; increase the options available through the market; and end surprise medical bills. We could do that, together. Instead, here we are wasting time on a partisan bill that has zero chance of becoming law. This is no way to govern.
At a time when we are asking our nation’s innovators to find new cures and treatments to address COVID-19 at record speed, and with record investment, Democrats want to enact a socialist drug pricing scheme that could devastate this country’s innovation in the middle of a global pandemic. That is unconscionable.
The bill provides $100 billion in bailouts for insurance companies at a time when insurers are not paying for elective procedures due to COVID. We all want to make premiums more affordable, but all signs indicate insurers do not need a bailout right now. Wouldn’t that money be better spent funding our nation’s community health centers, who are on the front lines of this fight, and on testing and treating patients in rural and underserved communities?
Speaking of money poorly spent, today Democrats are proposing we spend $400 million to prop up ACA enrollment. This includes $100 million for the failed and discredited navigators’ program, $100 million for outreach and marketing – only for ACA-compliant plans, not any of the more affordable alternatives – and $200 million for states to boost enrollment, with no strings attached. This law has been on the books for ten years, and we must spend nearly half a billion dollars just to make it look like it’s working?
In this bill, Democrats want to force states to expand Medicaid, allowing expansion states to get a 100% federal Medicaid payment while punishing non-expansion states by whacking their Medicaid payments. This is vindictive and potentially unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court said expansion is the states’ decision. This plan violates that. We need to work together with the states as partners, not treat them like subordinates.
Last Congress, I advocated for multiple policies that would help states stabilize health markets damaged by the ACA. Unfortunately, House Democrats repeatedly blocked our solutions.
We all want patients to have access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, but this measure doubles down on policies that have already failed.
One thing is clear: We need to make our health care system work better for all Americans. That’s why our goal should be to advance solutions to protect patients, stabilize health care markets, encourage greater flexibility for states, and promote policies to help Americans get – and keep – coverage.
Madam Speaker, I have great respect for the chairman, and we have worked together on several issues with great success at the Energy & Commerce Committee. Unfortunately, our bipartisan work to lower drug prices was derailed by the Speaker in December when she decided to force politics over real progress.
I recently read an article about a man suffering from ALS who has dedicated his life to finding a cure. Like Americans with ALS, there are millions of other Americans suffering from life-threatening or debilitating diseases, like cancer or sickle cell anemia, who are hoping that one day there will be a cure. It is not debatable that the bill before us today will reduce the number of new treatments in the future. The Council of Economic Advisors have found there could be more than 100 fewer treatments available if this bill becomes law.
We can lower drug prices while preserving the hope of those praying for a cure. There is common ground here. I have offered many times to work on bipartisan legislation that would lower the drug costs without limiting innovation. H.R. 19, is a bill comprised entirely of bipartisan policies, and already has seven provisions that have been signed into law. Instead of pursuing proven bipartisan solutions, here Democrats go again, forcing partisan policies that will result in fewer options for patients at a time when we need new treatments and cures the most.
This bill is a perfect illustration of why Americans are so cynical about Washington. The American people deserve better. I urge a no vote and reserve the balance of my time.