Weekly Democratic Address
December 13, 2019
Hi, I’m Congresswoman Kim Schrier. I’m proud to represent the 8th District in Washington. I am the first pediatrician elected to Congress, and currently the only female doctor in Congress. I am also a patient with Type 1 Diabetes. My life depends on insulin, so the high cost of prescription drugs affects me and people like me every day.
That’s why I’m so excited about H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, and I’m thrilled that it passed the House.
I represent a really big, really “purple” district. I’ve driven over 7,300 miles this year, traversing my district and talking with people about the issues that matter to them. In my district, it’s not impeachment, it’s not what is on the front page of the newspapers in Washington, D.C. It’s “what are you going to do to bring down the cost of prescription drugs?”
Because it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican: if you can’t afford your medications, you want a representative in Congress who will go to bat for you. Because medications won’t make you healthier if you can’t afford to buy them!
I understand this issue, both as a doctor and as a patient. Because it is not theoretical for me, or for my patients.
When we talk about the cost of insulin, I have felt that personally. I have seen the price of my insulin go from $40 twenty years ago, to $300 today. That is the price for a bottle that holds 10 mL – two teaspoons.
This is not a medication you can choose not to take. If you don’t take insulin, you die. It’s that simple. And so it’s unconscionable that the price has jumped seven fold in 20 years. Nothing else sees that kind of inflation.
Before being elected to Congress, I worked for nearly 20 years as a pediatrician in the suburbs of Seattle, three hours from the Canadian border.
I would ask parents to call me from the pharmacy if they couldn’t afford the medications I had prescribed. There is so little transparency in pricing that even the doctor doesn’t know what price any given patient will pay.
Mostly, I prescribed electronically. But when patients asked for a printed prescription, I understood why. They would drive up to Canada with those prescriptions. Because in Canada, the $300 insulin costs $50. And [for] my little patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, their Enbrel and Humira cost a small fraction of U.S. prices just across the border.
Right now, Americans pay – on average – three to four times what our neighbors in Canada or people in France, Germany, England, Australia and Japan pay for their medications. We should not be subsidizing the rest of the developed world’s medications.
And that’s why we just passed H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.
This is groundbreaking legislation that will make a meaningful difference in the lives and in the health of Americans in every one of our districts.
Here are the pillars of this bill:
It gives Medicare the power to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs. This will start with insulin and the most expensive medications.
It then extends those lower prices to private payers, so everybody wins. No longer will American seniors and families be forced to pay more for our medications than what the drug companies charge for the exact same drugs overseas!
It also caps out-of-pocket medication expenses for seniors at $2,000 a year. Many seniors live on a fixed income, and no senior should have to choose between taking their medication or putting food on the table.
This bill saves taxpayers more than half a trillion dollars. And we’re going to use that money well.
One of the ways is a bill I have introduced that broadens Medicare coverage to include eye exams and eyeglasses for seniors. This is a tremendous gap in coverage for the people who need glasses and vision care the most.
Look, this bill is pretty darn groundbreaking, and I’m optimistic about this bill being signed into law. This is because the American people want it and our President has said he believes we should negotiate the price of prescription drugs. I know that my district can’t be all that different from the districts represented by my Republican colleagues. All of our constituents are looking to us to fix the problem of out-of-control drug price inflation.
Lowering prescription drug costs is the centerpiece of the Democrats’ For the People agenda. I am so pleased today to deliver H.R. 3 for the people we all serve.
Now, I call on my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The American people cannot wait another day for this to become law.