Weekly Democratic Address
October 18, 2019
Hello, I’m Donna Shalala.
I represent Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
Only a few times in our history has Congress come together to pass legislation to dramatically improve the lives of the American people: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Medicare’s drug benefit and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.
We changed lives. We saved lives.
Now, we continue to work For the People with H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.
We are working to pass this bill into law so it can join these momentous commitments.
We pay more for our prescription drugs than any other country on Earth.
We have made incredible advances in medical science and developed cures not only for our own people, but also for the rest of the world.
And yet, even when our own researchers and scientists have dedicated their lives to creating lifesaving drugs, too many of our fellow Americans can’t afford to benefit from their brilliance.
In the United States today, a disease or chronic condition can force you into bankruptcy, or require you to choose between paying for medicine and paying for food or rent.
H.R. 3 makes reforms to reduce drug prices, to keep cost hikes to no more than inflation and to limit out-of-pocket costs for those on Medicare, on employer plans and private health insurance.
To help secure these patient protections, we will require our government to negotiate prices directly with drug companies.
I served as Secretary of Health and Human Services for eight years in the Clinton Administration. I repeatedly asked for the ability to negotiate with drug companies.
Only drug companies get to come to Medicare and set their own prices. Hospitals don’t get to do that; doctors don’t get to do that; home health care agencies don’t get to do that; medical equipment providers don’t get to do that.
Negotiation is a hallmark of good governance and a standard feature of government policy. We negotiate for everything, including military equipment and work with contractors.
It’s only drug companies that are able to write themselves a blank check from taxpayers. Our legislation ends that practice.
Now is the time for us to join every other country on Earth in allowing our government to bargain for better prices and to put a cap on our out-of-pocket costs.
As citizens, we’ve always been willing to subsidize poorer countries. But subsidizing England, and France, and Canada, and Germany, and Australia, and Japan, Sweden, Norway and Denmark is not our responsibility.
We are not their deep pockets. We should not pay substantially more for the same medicines than people in those countries.
The current, broken system is costing our families and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars. We must not accept this waste or this unfairness any longer.
Our bill is a solid plan to reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for every American, and it will create huge savings for taxpayers.
These savings will allow us to make significant investments in the extraordinary biomedical science institutions that foster innovation, such as the National Institutes of Health and, of course, our great research universities.
This bill will expand our capacity for innovation and make drug companies more efficient. H.R. 3 is a historic step forward to make all of our lives better.
Thank you, and God bless America.