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Rep. Courtney Helps Pass Legislation to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

May 16, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney voted to pass the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987), a bipartisan bill that seeks to lower prescription drug costs by helping lower-priced generic drugs get to market faster, to reinforce protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and to expand enrollment in quality, affordable health care coverage to more Americans. The Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act passed the House this evening with bipartisan support by a vote of 234-183.

“In 2018, we witnessed the largest voter turnout in over 100 years as the new majority was elected to the House of Representatives by over ten million votes,” said Congressman Courtney. “There’s no doubt that health care was the driving issue behind that historic turnout, and we know that one of the biggest concerns Americans have about the stability of their care is the rising cost of prescription drugs. The unfair and anti-competitive practices of certain drug manufacturers in keeping lower cost alternatives off of shelves has hurt American consumers, and has greatly contributed to the skyrocketing cost prescription medication. Our bill takes the issue head-on, and would finally put an end to many of the calculated practices of drug manufacturers that make it harder to bring comparable, generic drugs to market.

“Last week, the House passed a bill to protect health care for people with pre-existing conditions. This week, we’re going after outrageous and unfair drug pricing. This is what America voted for last fall.”

The Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act is an omnibus bill that includes three bills aimed at lowering prescription drug prices and defending vital protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Getting more low-priced generic drugs into the prescription drug market is a key way to create billions of dollars in cost savings for American consumers and taxpayers. For example, in 2017 alone, the entry of generic drugs into the market saved consumers and taxpayers a total of $265 billion.

The bill would invest most of the savings created by promoting generic drug competition into strengthening our health care system by increasing enrollment in quality coverage plans, and helping states set up their own state-based marketplaces, which outperform the Federal marketplace.

H.R. 987 includes the following three key drug pricing measures to remove barriers to lower-priced generic drugs getting to market and competing with brand-name drugs, thereby creating significant savings for consumers:

  • The CREATES Act:  Currently, certain brand-name manufacturers use tactics to withhold or delay generic manufacturers obtaining from them the brand drug samples they need to develop their own generic products.  This bill establishes a process by which generic manufacturers are able to obtain sufficient quantities of the brand drug samples, thereby blocking these delaying tactics.
  • The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act:  Currently, brand-name drug manufacturers can enter into a “pay-for-delay” agreement in which the brand-name manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer to delay bringing a generic equivalent to market, significantly hurting consumers.  This bill makes these “pay-for-delay” agreements illegal.
  • The BLOCKING Act:  Currently, the first generic applicant to FDA is granted 180 days of market exclusivity, but some generics then fail to move the product to market, thereby blocking other generics from applying to FDA in what is known as “parking”.  This bill allows generics to get to market earlier by changing the rules on “parking.”

The Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act also includes the following four measures to improve our health care system by revoking the Junk Plan rule, which would reinforce protections for people with pre-existing conditions, expand the number of individuals with quality coverage, and help more states create effective state-based marketplaces:

  • The SAVE Act: This bipartisan bill appropriates $200 million to assist interested states in creating their own state-based marketplaces.  State-based marketplaces are outperforming the Federal marketplace, achieving lower premiums and higher enrollment.  This bill empowers states to implement new approaches that lower costs and expand coverage for American families, thereby improving our health care system.
  • The MORE Health Education Act & The ENROLL Act:  These bills restore critical funding for marketplace consumer outreach and enrollment education activities, as well as critical funding for the Navigator program, both of which the Trump Administration has slashed.  CBO estimates this funding will result in about 500,000 additional enrollees in nongroup quality, affordable coverage and Medicaid each year over the next 10 years.
  • Rescinding the Trump Administration’s Devastating Junk Plan Rule:  This bill reinforces the 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.