WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) remarks at a Subcommittee on Health markup on four pieces of legislation to improve maternal health and decrease maternal mortality, accelerate the FDA process to approve generic drugs and combat the youth tobacco epidemic.
As Prepared for Delivery
Today, we will markup four bills addressing public health issues ranging from improving maternal health outcomes, to regulating e-cigarettes, to reforming the citizen petition process at the Food and Drug Administration.
I am very pleased that we have worked together to advance the maternal mortality bills in a bipartisan fashion.
Last year, the President signed into law the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act. This important law, led by Reps. Herrera Beutler and DeGette, improved data collection and reporting around maternal mortality, and developed systems at the local, state, and national level to better understand the burden of maternal complications.
Today we build off that work by marking up H.R. 4996, the Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act, and H.R. 4995, the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act. The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act, led by our Energy and Commerce Committee colleagues Reps. Engel, Bucshon, and Latta, combines the provisions of two important bipartisan bills: First, H.R. 4215, the Excellence in Maternal Health Act, which was led by Dr. Bucshon, authorizes grants to identify, develop, and disseminate maternal health quality best practices, supports training for health professionals, and authorizes grants for operating innovative evidence-based programs that deliver integrated services to pregnant and postpartum women. And second, H.R. 4243, the Rural MOMS Act, spearheaded by Representatives Torres Small and Latta, specifically helps improve maternal health in rural areas.
H.R. 4996, the Helping MOMS Act, led by our Energy and Commerce Committee colleagues Kelly, Burgess, Carter, and Rodgers, enhances coverage for pregnant and postpartum women in the Medicaid and SCHIP programs by giving states the option of covering pregnant and postpartum women for a year instead of 60 days. That is what is available under current law.
Both of these bipartisan bills demonstrate the commitment of this committee to continue to address maternal mortality and improve the health outcomes in expectant or new mothers across the country.
H.R. 2387, the STOP GAMES Act, introduced by Reps. Levin and Rooney, aims to get generic drugs to market more quickly. While I support the goals of the legislation, I do believe that, as currently drafted, this bill raises serious constitutional concerns. I hope to continue working with the Chairman in an effort to address our concerns before proceeding to a full committee markup.
Finally, we will be considering H.R. 2339, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act. I think we can all agree that the youth vaping epidemic is a serious crisis. I also think we can all agree that the vaping related illnesses that swept across the country over the past few months has been equally concerning. However, this bill will not do anything to prevent future vaping illnesses such as the ones we’ve recently seen.
We all want to prevent the use of tobacco products by minors. The upward trend in adolescent use of e-cigarettes in just the past three years is alarming. The use of these products by children is particularly troubling since we know that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine – an addictive substance that the CDC has warned may harm brain development and increase risk for future addiction to other drugs – and may lead to the use of other tobacco products.
There are several aspects of the Chairman’s bill that our side could support. Cracking down on youth tobacco use is a laudable goal and we are committed to working with you to stop this epidemic. But there is another agenda at play here: to completely rid the market of all flavored tobacco products. Smoking is harmful and we should do what we can to prevent use by children, but I think eliminating consumer choice for law-abiding adults is unnecessary and will lead to unintended consequences.
We heard in this committee last month that those who choose flavored products will go out of their way to get them. Illicit tobacco trade is already a very real problem across the globe and a complete ban on flavored and menthol products will only open up new opportunities for the counterfeit market and make these problems worse. A complete ban on all flavored tobacco products could drive individuals towards illicit products, which pose substantially higher risks given that our regulators and consumers have no idea what dangerous substances they may contain.
Additionally, this bill misses the mark on preventing vaping related illnesses. It ignores the facts – the CDC has stated the majority of these illnesses have been caused by substances in illegal THC vape products. Yet this bill does nothing to address flavored marijuana products that are being marketed across the United States.
While I appreciate the Chairman’s dedication, we need to advance legislation that would have a clear impact on the challenge we all acknowledge: curbing youth tobacco use. I am disappointed that during our legislative hearing we were not able to hear from the FDA, the agency that will be tasked with implementing this law. But I believe we can get this right.
On all of today’s legislation, I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, as we move forward in this process.
I yield back.