WASHINGTON, D.C. – The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a Full Committee Hearing on Investing in the U.S. Health System by Lowering Drug Prices, Reducing Out-of-Pocket Costs, and Improving Medicare Benefits
CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Neal.
“In 2003, as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I was proud to help enact into law the Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, creating for the first time an affordable, life-saving prescription drug plan for seniors.
“Led by President Bush and a Republican Congress, this was the largest overhaul of Medicare in the program’s history.
“Regrettably, Democrats on this Committee and in Congress overwhelmingly opposed helping seniors get their medicines affordably – led by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who famously declared ‘we must stop them. This is the beginning of the end of Medicare as we know it.’ And they voted ‘no’ almost in lock step.
“America’s elderly are grateful Democrats failed to kill the Medicare Part D drug program. Today, 43 million Americans are enrolled in this life-saving program.
“Not only is it one of the most popular health care programs, it came in 50 percent under budget and still gives seniors affordable premiums even 16 years later.
“Since then the program has withstood assaults from Democrats in Congress who slashed $800 billion from Medicare in the Affordable Care Act.
“When Speaker Pelosi took the House gavel in January, she declared ‘I pledge that this Congress will be transparent, bipartisan and unifying; that we will seek to reach across the aisle in this Chamber.’
“None of that is true.
“This bill was written in secret behind closed doors. Republicans in Congress were excluded. By abandoning the bipartisan work to lower drug prices, H.R. 3 is dividing Congress and being rushed to the floor – just like the secret impeachment investigation.
“We are seeing this bill for the first time. Nor does it have a complete CBO score.
“Republicans agree: We need to work together to crack down on overpriced drugs. There’s no excuse for massive price hikes on existing drugs, or price spikes during the year that leave patients and families in the lurch.
“But H.R. 3 is best described as the Fewer Cures for Patients Act.
“It is dangerous, and as the Congressional Budget Office has conceded, will stop life-saving cures from getting to the patients who need them most.
“These are the medicines that could be the answer to some of the most hear-breaking and devastating diseases our children, seniors, and families are facing.
“Why would Congress punish companies taking the biggest and most costliest risks to find life-savings cures for rare and orphan diseases? Why favor new serums for longer eyelashes over a cure for Alzheimers? Why incentivize higher launch prices and slash crucial investments in research and development?
“I worry about the 300,000 Texans who live with Alzheimers and their caregivers. Over 120 promising drugs have failed to be approved for this devastating disease – under H.R. 3, where is the hope for a cure?
“I think about my neighbor whose husband died of a rare brain disease. Another neighbor whose previously vibrant husband is struggling today with Parkinson’s. My two friends who died from ALS. Their hopes – and mine – for a cure are at risk in this bill.
“Supporters of H.R. 3 will tell you ‘don’t worry. Only 15 or so diseases will be left behind.’
“But one cure lost is one cure too many.
“And I believe CBO has woefully underestimated the life-saving cures that will be short-circuited from this bill.
“Americans have been clear that lowering out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs should be a priority for Congress. So should accelerating life-saving cures.
“Which is why Republicans have been working in good faith with Democrats on bipartisan legislation like the 21st Century Cures Act, the Prescription Drug STAR Drug Act, and the SPIKE Act that accelerate cures, promote transparency, and inject accountability into the drug chain – so people can pay less at the counter for the prescriptions they need.
“Democrats will loudly ask ‘where is your plan?’
“They already know the answer: We were working with you at your invitation to find bipartisan consensus to lower drug prices.
“Mr. Chairman, you and I put our names on solutions we shared with the public—on how to provide further benefits for our seniors; which included, for the first time, an out-of-pocket cap on drug expenses.
“That effort has now been trashed with H.R. 3.
“It doesn’t have to be this way.
“Let’s go back to the table, to work together to give patients more power to choose the right medicine for them. To get the incentives right within Medicare to punish bad drug actors and reward lower prices – without jeopardizing the innovative cures that give hope to patients and their families.
“Instead, what this secret, partisan bill does is to tell creators of these lifesaving drugs, ‘Washington will dictate the price. And if you don’t agree, we’ll tax your drug out of existence.’
“This isn’t negotiation. It’s government price fixing and extortion.
“As dangerous as its chilling impact on life-saving cures, not a dime of the ‘savings’ from this bill will go to make Medicare solvent.
“How can you justify expanding Medicare when its hospital trust fund will go bankrupt in a mere seven years? How fiscally irresponsible can Congress be?
“The truth is: The only bill that will make it to the President’s desk is a bipartisan one. Together, we need to find solutions that will lower out-of-pocket costs for patients and seniors.
“Let’s get this right. And do it right. Together.
“Thank you, Chairman.”