Folks travel from across the globe just to receive care at our region’s world-renowned hospitals. Houston’s own Texas Medical Center is home to some of the best medical facilities, research and innovation in the nation. While we are blessed to have access to state of the art medical care in our own backyard, the cost of healthcare continues to rise, hurting family budgets, especially those on a fixed income.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of Americans take at least one prescription medicine on a daily basis. However, the cost of prescription medications has skyrocketed, making it harder for patients to afford the drugs they need.
Many Americans unknowingly overpay for needed prescriptions because they don’t realize that getting prescriptions filled through their health insurance may not be the cheapest option. A 2018 University of Southern California report concluded that customers overpaid for prescription drugs 23 percent of the time.
This is unacceptable. We need better transparency so that consumers can make informed choices for their healthcare. In Congress, we’re working hard to make sure folks have access to affordable medication. We recently passed two bills that were signed into law by President Trump that will do just that.
The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act lifted a ban, known as the “gag clause,” which prevented pharmacists from telling patients when they can save money by paying for medication out-of-pocket instead of through insurance. Pharmacists who broke these rules faced significant penalties, simply for trying to help patients save money. We also passed the Know the Lowest Price Act, which takes it one step further, allowing pharmacists to inform folks when paying out-of-pocket will save more money than going through Medicare.
Health insurance is supposed to help lower healthcare costs and medicine, not make it more expensive. These laws are a common-sense step to increase transparency and improve access to low cost prescriptions for Americans. They give families the ability to make informed decisions that are best for them, saving them money in the process.
These two vital pieces of legislation tackled a key priority in President Trump’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices, by lowering out-of-pocket costs. I look forward to working with the Administration to address the remaining three main issues of the blueprint – improving competition, better negotiations and incentives for lower list prices.
In addition to ensuring folks have access to low-cost medication; we are working to increase access to quality, affordable care for all Americans — particularly folks with preexisting conditions. No one should be forced to pay punitive higher costs simply because of their health care status. That’s why I cosponsored and will push for passage of two bills to protect patients with pre-existing conditions, H.Res. 1089, a Resolution Protecting Pre- Existing Conditions and H.R. 1121, the Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act.
Folks across our region rightfully want assurances they will be able to afford care if something happens to them or their families. While there is still much to be done, we will continue to build on these efforts to put patients and doctors in the driver’s seat and ensure folks can get and keep the coverage, treatment and medications they need.