House is working on reining in drug prices, Scott says

August 5, 2019
In The News

Sharing a tale of his own about an insurer’s red tape over eye-drops he needed, Rep Robert C. Scott, D-Newport News told staffers and patients at the Hampton Roads Community Health Center’s Portsmouth clinic that the House of Representatives is working on several fronts to tackle the high cost of medication.

Scott said Congress is working on several fronts to address prescription drug costs, with measures looking at more transparency about pricing, new requirements that drug companies justify to big price increases to regulators and measures to encourage competition by generic drugs.

Measures that have already worked their way though the House Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means and Judiciary committees have won bi-partisan backing.

Scott himself is working with Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Richard Neal, D-Mass, on a measure to strengthen the Affordable Care Act by expanding access to the tax credits that help Americans pay for coverage and well as funding for reinsurance aimed at keeping high-cost claims from boosting premiums. The bill also includes provisions to repeal some of the Trump Administration directives that Scott says have undercut the ACA.

“Even now, the ACA is better than what we had before. And it’s better than the repeal and replace bill that would have passed if (Arizona’s late) Sen. (John) McCain hadn’t given that a thumbs-down,” Scott said. That bill, backed by the administration, would have boosted premiums by about 25% within a year and lead 17 million to lose coverage, an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found. Republicans say the ACA is too expensive and unfairly requires all Americans to have insurance.

“There’s one party that’s for health insurance and one party that’s not,” Scott said. For him, that’s the key lesson in the Washington battles over healthcare, he added as he responded to Shad Plank’s question about whether he favored the Medicare for All or public option or other health insurance reforms various Democratic political hopefuls are urging.

Scott said he thinks a public option — that is, allowing people to buy into Medicare coverage — is a way of introducing more competition and better control over health care costs.

He said he doesn’t really see the need to do away with private coverage, as some have urged, but noted that a public option would set a high competitive bar for commercial players, since Medicare’s administrative costs run in the 2-3% range compared to the 20% allowed private insurers under federal and state laws.

Oh, and about those eye-drops? Scott, tired of waiting for his insurer to get back to him to authorize coverage for the medication, was lucky enough to run into a pharmacist who steered him to the discount cards many Americans — including patients who learn about the programs at the Portsmouth clinic — rely on in order to get the medication they need, when they need it at a price they can afford.

Scott’s insurer authorized the eye-drops two weeks after he called to ask.

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