What’s Congress doing about health care?

August 13, 2019

One of the issues that Philadelphians call or email me about the most is health care. Here’s an update on what’s been happening with this vital issue in Washington. 

In our first 200 days in power, the new Democratic majority in the House has passed several bills to protect Americans’ health care and lower the cost of prescription drugs -- including insulin, which is crucial for thousands of Philadelphians with diabetes.  

On the first day of the new Congress, we voted to authorize the House Counsel to intervene in the Texas v. U.S. lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA), including its protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. I believe the president chose to proactively side in court with those who seek to throw out the entire law and its protections. 

In addition, the House has passed and sent to the Senate 10 bills to protect and expand access to coverage and address the cost of prescription drugs, including:  

● H.R. 986, the Protecting Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions Act: This bill would protect coverage for 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions by revoking the current administration’s guidance on Section 1332 of the ACA. I believe that guidance encourages states to allow junk insurance plans that do not provide Americans with the coverage they need.
● H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act: This legislation packaged seven bills together. Four of the bills would protect Americans with pre-existing conditions and provide funding for outreach and enrollment efforts to encourage Americans to sign up for health coverage. The remaining three bills aim to lower prescription drug prices by bringing generic drugs to market more quickly.
● H.R. 1520, the Purple Book Continuity Act, and H.R. 1503, the Orange Book Transparency Act: These two bills would help to lower prescription drug prices by amending what information must be included in the Orange and Purple Books at the FDA, which generics and biosimilars manufacturers use when they are considering where to invest their research and development dollars. 

House committees have also held numerous health care-related hearings, including hearings to examine the president’s handling of the Affordable Care Act, the cost of prescription drugs like insulin, the opioid crisis, maternal health, and surprise billing. I believe the president has been working to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. House Democrats will continue to work through the committees to bring additional legislation to the floor later in the year.

There has also been some debate about “Medicare for All” and other bills to expand coverage. It’s important to know that Medicare for All is one of at least nine different Medicare-expansion bills that have been introduced in Congress. There are many options to consider. I see them all as starting points for this necessary discussion. I believe that agreeing on significant health care legislation may be difficult in the short term. The reality is that we have a Republican-controlled Senate and executive branch. However, I am committed to achieving as much progress as we can in the current Congress.   

As President Trump pushed for legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he said, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Well, I knew it -- and I bet you did too! He has promised many times that he’ll deliver a plan that will give you more and cost less. I am wary of sweeping promises like that. 

My priorities for health care include:
● universal access to health care, which might be achieved several different ways,  
● preventing a repeat of the Hahnemann closure at other hospitals, which the management has blamed in part on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates,
● reining in prescription-drug prices,
● addressing surprise medical billing,
● protecting people with pre-existing conditions and
● reducing maternal mortality, which is higher for African American mothers.
Health care is one of the most important, most personal issues the government oversees. As your representative in Congress, I am committed to getting this right.