Davis Statement in Support of the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act
December 11, 2019
Healthcare is a right and never should be about extreme profits at the expense of patients and taxpayers. The cost of prescription medications has climbed exponentially over the past several years, and something needs to be done about it. Some analysts have reported that about half of all Americans take a prescription drug. This issue, if not already, will be the central most critical problem Americans will face in their lifetimes unless we do something about it. Many Americans are put in a place to choose whether to fill their prescription drugs or pay the rent and/or feed their children. One of my constituents in Chicago named Thomas said the following about the high price of drugs: “I pay $7,000 out of pocket for my prescriptions, and that is with insurance! This is completely insane.”
H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, is a great first step toward changing the landscape of the current drug pricing problem facing our patients and taxpayers. It would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate for better prices on prescription drugs and eliminate price increases that exceed the rate of inflation on more than 8,000 different drugs in Medicare. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would save $448 billion for Medicare alone and out-of- pocket costs while reinvesting the savings back into the Medicare program for seniors and people with disabilities.
I applaud H.R. 3 for its historic investment in the health of Americans by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increasing supports for Medicare, and supporting public health. I am grateful to Democratic Leadership for including my bills to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity by doubling our investment in the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV) and to address health worker shortages by expanding the successful Health Profession Opportunity Grant Program that helps vulnerable workers lift their families out of poverty.
Maternal mortality devastates families and communities, exacting a particularly high price from women of color. Black women in the U.S. experience pregnancy-related death more than any other racial or ethnic group, regardless of income or education. Black, Native American, and Alaska Native women are about three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and these disparities have increased over time. We know that home visiting is a proven tool to help improve maternal health during pregnancy and after birth, whether one lives in rural, urban, or suburban communities. The relationships built during home visits create important support networks and connect families to services to keep them safe and healthy.
H.R. 3 acts to reduce rising rates of maternal mortality and life-threatening pregnancy complications, particularly in states, tribes, and territories with a high level of identified need for services. The bill doubles our investment in the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (or MIECHV), a proven tool to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Currently, MIECHV only serves about 150,000 of the estimated 18 million expectant and new parents who could benefit from its help. By doubling the federal investment in home visiting over two years, we would make it possible for more communities to address the root causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. In addition, H.R. 3 would quadruple the federal investment in home visiting in American Indian communities. Native American women are 4.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth complications, but only 23 of 425 eligible tribes receive any federal home visiting support under current law. The promise of this provision is reflected by its support by over 450 state, local, and national organizations. I am pleased to have worked with Chairman Neal and my Democratic Colleagues to take this first step toward addressing the urgent health crisis of maternal mortality.
In addition, I am grateful that H.R. 3 includes my bill to reauthorize and expand the Health Profession Opportunity Grant Program (or HPOG). HPOGs address health worker shortages and help Americans start careers that will lift their families out of poverty. The healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing industries, and one of the largest employers in the country. In Chicago alone, healthcare encompasses an estimated 12.2 percent – or $69.7 billion – of the region’s total economic production. But that growth is causing a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals. In successful federal demonstration projects over a decade, HPOG grantees used a “career pathways” approach that bundled together high-quality job training with career coaching and work supports (such as child care and transportation) to train individuals for health professions that are in-demand or experiencing shortages.
The results of the demonstration are impressive. Participants - predominately women, single parents, workers from racial and ethnic minority communities, and individuals who did not finish high school - overwhelmingly completed their training and enrolled in higher-level trainings to continue climbing the career ladder. Key support services – like child care, education, training, career coaching, and transportation – directly helped these workers earn the licenses and credentials they needed. They got jobs in healthcare. They became valued employees. They stayed in their jobs, got promoted, and got raises. By expanding HPOG’s reach, from a demonstration project serving 15,000 individuals in 32 states, to a nationwide competitive grant program that will provide opportunity and trained health care workers to every state, the U.S. territories, and American Indian communities, H.R. 3 will expand economic opportunity for thousands of vulnerable workers across the nation. Also, it would create two new demonstration projects to test the HPOG approach to address barriers to workforce participation for individuals with arrest or conviction records, and to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity by investing in a pregnancy and birth worker career pathway.
H.R. 3 improves the health of our communities by providing substantial assistance with medication and health care costs, reduces maternal mortality and morbidity, and invests in vulnerable workers with evidence-based training and to grow our healthcare workforce. I urge my colleagues to support this historic bill.
Find out more about who would be helped by the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act in the 7th Congressional District: