WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) spoke on the Senate floor, calling on her colleagues to put election year politics aside and to pass legislation to lower the costs of prescription drugs for Iowans, including the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction of 2020
, which she supports and originally passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on a bipartisan 19-9 vote, including all committee Democrats.
Ernst noted the urgency of addressing this issue, stating, “As our communities continue to grapple with the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the crisis of rising drug costs in the U.S. has only worsened. Now more than ever, folks are operating on very thin margins, and simply don’t have room in their budgets for expensive prescriptions.”
Click here or on the image above to watch Senator Ernst’s remarks.
Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:
“Mr. President, Americans are facing extremely challenging times. And right now, folks are working hard just to make ends meet, to put food on their table, and to care for their families and their loved ones.
“As our communities continue to grapple with the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the crisis of rising drug costs in the U.S. has only worsened.
“Now more than ever, folks are operating on very thin margins, and simply don’t have room in their budgets for expensive prescriptions.
“No individual should have to make the decision between filling a lifesaving prescription and feeding their family.
“The skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs has become a matter of life and death for so many.
“We’ve heard the heartbreaking stories of individuals who could not afford their insulin, were forced to ration and skip doses, and as a result they lost their lives.
“I remember quite vividly a conversation I had with an Iowa mother explain how she lost her son who as a young and was rationing his insulin because he could not afford to buy more.
“It was a heartbreaking discussion, and having that discussion with that mother, I could not help but think then of my own brother and sister who have been reliant on insulin as juvenile diabetics for nearly all of their lives.
“When we talk about the cost of prescription drugs, folks, lives are literally on the line.
“And Iowans have been very clear with me where they stand on this issue. They want to see us act and come together to advance solutions that drive down those drug prices.
“Seniors, families, and children all need to be assured that when they go to the pharmacy, they’ll be able to afford their medications and not have to skip a meal or more to do so.
“And this is why I was proud to join my friend and my colleague, Senator Grassley, in introducing a piece of legislation that I know he has worked tirelessly on - the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2020.
“This vital piece of legislation would root out unfair pricing shenanigans and perverse payment incentives that allow pharmaceutical companies to take advantage of the system at the expense of taxpayers and patients.
“According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would save taxpayers $95 billion with a “b”, $95 billion, reduce out-of-pocket expenses by $72 billion with a “b” dollars, and reduce premiums by $1 billion with a “b” dollars.
“Now it needs to be said that Chairman Grassley worked for months – he worked for months on end – to craft this bill in a bipartisan manner WITH
his Democratic counterparts.
“In fact, two-thirds of the Senate Finance Committee approved our bipartisan Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act a year ago this very month. Two-thirds of the Senate Finance Committee.
“And yet, at a time when Americans are struggling to afford rent and groceries, my colleagues across the aisle suddenly chose to drop their support for this bipartisan drug pricing reform bill that they helped write.
“Let me make that clear. The Democrats helped write the bill with Senator Grassley. Those who sat on the Finance Committee approved this bill last year. This year, they are refusing to assist my senior senator Cuck Grassley in voting forward a bill they helped write.
“That begs the question: what changed? What changed over the course of one year?
“And you know what folks, that’s exactly what happened. It was the year.
“2020 is an election year. And that means Washington is not focused on solutions, it’s all about the political scoreboard.
“We’ve seen it already this year with our friends across the aisle blocking us from even debating the JUSTICE Act
– the police reform bill that contained about 70% of what our Democratic colleagues were asking for in police reform.
“Iowans put their partisanship aside and came together and got a police reform package passed. That’s Iowans in our state legislature. I wish we could say the same for Washington – not only on the JUSTICE Act
, but this prescription drug pricing bill.
“Lowering prescription drug costs shouldn’t be about who gets the credit, it should be about working across the aisle to save lives – which is the very reason why Senator Grassley worked hand in hand with Democrats on this bill.
“Iowans expect more from Washington, and they want more, and they should get it.
“Chairman Grassley, President Trump, and I won’t back down from this fight. We will press on and do everything in our power to provide relief to Americans who desperately need it.
“I will continue to call on my Democratic colleagues to come to the table to work on improving our nation’s health care system and drive down the costs for Americans.
“Whether it’s lowering drug costs, expanding child care options for families, ensuring protections for individuals with preexisting conditions like my sister and my brother, or simply making sure that children have access to clean diapers. Simple things. These are all issues that Americans want to see Congress take action on.
“Just recently, I joined with my colleague Senator Braun of Indiana in introducing a bill that helps address yet another critical issue for Americans – increasing transparency and lowering health care costs.
“Our Healthcare PRICE Transparency Act
would implement the Administration’s rules requiring hospitals and insurers to reveal their low, discounted prices and negotiated rates to patients before they receive medical care.
“Iowans should be able to know the costs associated with their health care in advance, so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.
“Folks, let’s not forget that outside of the halls of Congress, Americans are facing hard times.
“They are mourning the loss of loved ones who have been taken by this virus, they are worried about how they will take care of their children at home while they work to provide, they are concerned for their health and the well-being of their loved ones, and many of them are considering skipping a dose of their medication, or cutting a pill in half, to try to make that prescription stretch just a little bit farther until their next paycheck.
“So folks, let’s put aside political interests. Let’s work together on this.
“I’ll be standing at the ready and it is my sincere hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in this effort.”