SUNDAY TALK: Ernst on Lowering Prescription Drug Costs

By Joni Ernst

Every year, I complete what I call my 99 County Tour, where I hold town halls and meet with Iowans in every single one of our 99 counties. Throughout the year, every year, there’s plenty of issues Iowans tell me they’re concerned about. Topics range from finalizing trade deals like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to ensuring our veterans get the care and benefits they deserve.

But, as I’ve been out talking directly with folks in the last year — from the most rural parts of our state to some of our heaviest populated regions — the one topic I hear about consistently is the need to address the cost of health care, specifically when it comes to prescription drugs.

This issue hits close to home for me: I’ve got a sister and brother who both need insulin for their Type 1 diabetes. But it’s not just my family. So many Iowans across the state need Congress to do something. Our families shouldn’t have to choose between making a mortgage payment and actually purchasing and utilizing lifesaving prescriptions.

Addressing these growing costs has been a top priority for me. Over the last year, I’ve worked across the aisle toward solutions to increase competition, drive down costs, and close the loopholes that allow bad actors to take advantage of the system. We also need to ensure that researchers can keep creating new and lifesaving drugs. These much-needed reforms are critical to making health care more affordable for Iowans.

I’m glad to report that we’ve made some progress in the last few months in starting to bring down these costs.

One of the bipartisan bills I supported, the CREATES Act, was passed successfully by the Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump. This bipartisan legislation, which is now law, is designed to help drive down costs by increasing competition in the marketplace. The CREATES Act prevents brand-name pharmaceutical and biologic companies from purposely stifling competition by blocking the entry of lower-cost generic drugs into the market.

But that’s just a start. There’s no question we have more work ahead.

As many of you know, my good friend and colleague and Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, has been a steadfast champion for addressing prescription drug costs. Sen. Grassley, joined by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, is leading a bipartisan proposal, called the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, to go after these skyrocketing prices.

While I don’t believe this proposal is perfect, it’s a great place to start. And that’s why I’m glad to support Sen. Grassley in this effort and look forward to continuing to work alongside him and our colleagues — both Democrats and Republicans — on advancing solutions through Congress and to the president’s desk.

In addition to Sen. Grassley’s proposal, I’ve also joined forces with my colleague from Idaho, Sen. Mike Crapo, on additional legislation to lower prescription drug prices and bring transparency to the market. This bill, called the Lower Costs More Cures Act, also takes steps to protect folks with diabetes by lowering out-of-pocket costs for insulin in Medicare Part D and high-deductible plans. I’m proud to be supporting a wide range of policy approaches and legislative solutions.

Folks, there are two things that are consistently true: 1) prescription drug costs remain too high; and 2) we have to do more in Congress to fix that. What’s important is that we come together with our ideas and we find a pathway forward to deliver swift relief to the countless Americans who are struggling to afford their medications.

Americans do not have time for us to remain on the sidelines of this issue. They have called us to action by sharing their personal experiences of leaving prescriptions unfilled, of rationing lifesaving medications, or of choosing between their mortgage payment and a loved one’s drug treatment. Enough is enough, it’s time for us to respond.

We’ve made some headway, but, as the president said during his State of the Union address, Congress needs to come together and get it done. And, thankfully, there is no shortage of good ideas and worthwhile approaches in how to go about it.

In order for us to reach solutions, I believe we need to take a hard look at all the proposals on the table. Let’s work together to find solutions that will do what we all agree must be done: lower prescription drug costs for the hardworking people of this country. I’m working toward that end, and I hope many more will join me

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