Sandy Springs, GA — Representatives Lucy McBath (GA-06) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) recently led freshman House members in sending a letter to chamber leadership and asking that prescription drug access and affordability be a top priority in the next COVID-19 relief package. McBath introduced legislation in March to ensure beneficiaries be notified of options to obtain 90 day refills by their insurance company, and signed onto a letter in April urging that Congress make life-saving prescription drugs more affordable by placing price-caps on treatments for conditions most adversely affected by COVID-19.
“There are no issues more personal than prescription drugs and the high prices Americans must pay to get the medicine they need. During public health emergencies like this, people across our country shouldn’t have to be concerned about accessing their medication,” said McBath. “I’m a two-time breast cancer survivor who lives with pre-existing conditions, and I know the uncertainty people face if they can’t get their medicine. As the next federal package to help Americans is negotiated, we need to make sure more steps are taken toward making prescription drugs affordable and folks are able to get their medications while staying healthy and prepared.”
“We have consistently heard from our constituents that costs are prohibitive to obtaining their medications, a problem that is exacerbated during a crisis,” the lawmakers write. “Additionally, the need to social distance can make obtaining even affordable drugs difficult. We respectfully request that provisions making prescription drugs accessible and affordable are included in the next relief package.”
The letter asks that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy guarantee patients will be able to maintain an adequate supply of their medications as the pandemic continues and additional legislative packages are negotiated. At a time when most Americans are being asked to stay at home, the freshman Members of Congress are calling for congressional action to ensure that consumers can access 30 day fills of their prescriptions and be notified of options to obtain 90 day refills. The lawmakers are also urging that House leadership include measures in the next COVID-19 relief package to bring down the high cost of prescription drugs at a time when tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their health coverage, and are struggling to obtain and afford their medications.
McBath has made health care and prescription drug accessibility and affordability a priority. In December, she voted to pass H.R.3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act to help bring down the cost of prescription drugs and level the playing field for American patients who are paying more for their medicines than patients in other countries. The comprehensive health care legislation included McBath's bill to cover hearing aids for Medicare beneficiaries.
The full text of the letter reads:
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, it is critical that we do everything in our power to maintain and increase access to prescription drugs. We have consistently heard from our constituents that costs are prohibitive to obtaining their medications, a problem that is exacerbated during a crisis. Additionally, the need to social distance can make obtaining even affordable drugs difficult. We respectfully request that provisions making prescription drugs accessible and affordable are included in the next relief package.
The current system of refilling prescription drugs is often incompatible with the precautions to limit the spread of the virus. For example, in preparation for emergencies, the CDC recommends having a 30-day supply of necessary prescription drugs. However, prescriptions usually can only be refilled on a certain schedule. Furthermore, we have been promoting social distancing and limiting time spent outside the home, but consumers are often unaware of their options for obtaining fills larger than 30 days. As we craft legislation, we should consider provisions that guarantee that patients covered by both private and public insurance are able to receive early fills of their medications and are notified of options for 90-day fills during emergency periods. Additionally, we must curb any additional barriers such as utilization management tools, limited access to mail order pharmacies, or limitations on telehealth. As we continue to promote methods to flatten the curve, we must adapt to ensure that our constituents are able to have access to the prescription drugs that keep them healthy.
We must also acknowledge that an economic downturn may make prescription drugs more unaffordable than they already are for the average American. We consistently hear that the costs cause people to ration their medications, which can cause serious health problems and even death. In the middle of a public health crisis, we should take every step to lower the burden on our health care system, including lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Many policies, such as an out of pocket cap on Medicare Part D and prohibiting pay for delay tactics, share bipartisan, bicameral support. As we look for solutions for the long-term effects of this pandemic, we should consider lowering the cost of prescription drugs and bringing relief to American families.
During the past few weeks, we’ve shown the American people that we can come together to pass the support and reforms that they need. Although this problem is not a new one, the current pandemic has greatly increased the impacts of this issue, and as we continue to work to alleviate the burden that our families are facing we should finally address it. We appreciate your leadership on this issue and your attention to this matter.
Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.
Kendra S. Horn