Health care is a deeply personal issue. I hear about it in every corner of our region. I hear it from the worker in Abingdon whose company abruptly stopped providing insurance -- and only making $9 per hour, he can’t afford coverage on his own. And I hear concern from the mother in Sterling who can hardly afford insulin for her diabetic child, which costs 10 times more than it did 20 years ago.
But I also know how personal this issue is because I worked in health care for a decade before serving in Congress. And because my family -- like so many others across our Congressional District -- has seen up close the deep and unforgiving flaws in our health care system.
My late brother thought he had good health insurance -- that was, until he was diagnosed with cancer. His doctor prescribed him medication, but the insurance company wouldn’t cover it even though he needed it to stay alive. Our family had the resources to pitch in and cover the costs – but many families across our region, and the country, aren’t as fortunate.
That’s why with our House Democratic majority, we’re working tirelessly to bring down the cost of health care. It may not get headlines in today’s chaotic political environment, but so far this year, we’ve held dozens of hearings on health care and prescription drug prices.
I helped introduce the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care More Affordable Act of 2019, which would stabilize the insurance markets and protect access to health care for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer, asthma and diabetes.
And just recently, the House passed a commonsense package of bills – the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act – that would do three critical things to help families:
1. Bring down the cost of prescription drugs. Our legislation would remove barriers for lower-priced generic drugs getting to market and competing with brand-name drugs, thereby creating significant savings for Illinoisans. In fact, the average drug price decreases by 50 percent in the first year of generic entry, with an 80 percent reduction in five years.
2. Crack down on junk insurance plans. This bill reinforces the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions by revoking the Trump Administration’s rule that promotes the sale of junk plans, which discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and do not cover essential benefits.
3. Enroll more Americans on affordable health plans. Finally, our legislation restores critical funding for marketplace consumer outreach and enrollment education activities -- as well as for the Navigator program -- both of which the Trump Administration has slashed. The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates this funding will result in about 500,000 additional Americans in nongroup quality, affordable coverage and Medicaid each year over the next 10 years.
While these are just first steps, our bills would make a difference in the lives of so many Illinoisans. These aren’t partisan ideas -- they’re proven solutions to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable for folks who need it most.
Unfortunately, the Senate has done next to nothing on health care. The Senate Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has referred to himself as the “Grim Reaper” of Congress -- sending bills like this to the legislative graveyard of the U.S. Senate.
Even worse, the White House is in court right now, suing to strike down the Affordable Care Act -- including its protections for folks with pre-existing conditions, bipartisan Medicaid expansion, the ban on lifetime spending limits and the ability for individuals to stay on their parents’ coverage up to the age of 26.
That’s not something we can stand for when so many Americans need action now. Whether it’s a cancer patient who needs treatment or the mother of a child with diabetes, every American deserves affordable health care.
I’m committed to finding solutions for the families I serve -- that’s exactly what House Democrats have done. It’s time for McConnell and the White House to join us.