Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 5.5.14

Helping Patients

This column is not about Obamacare per se, but you can’t talk about patients without discussing Obamacare.  I have voted to repeal Obamacare and will vote to repeal it again.  I have also been active on the health care front in an effort to protect people from Obamacare.  

Notwithstanding my desire to repeal Obamacare, I have been seeking to advance legislation that would help patients receive quality, affordable health care that meets that patient’s individual health care needs.  Here is a brief rundown of the bills I have introduced to that end since I was named to the Health Subcommittee in December of 2012.

  • Introduced in May of last year with Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA) and Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), the bipartisan Patient Choice Act (H.R. 2090) would speed up the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of drugs, giving patients suffering from terminal diseases the option to purchase these new, innovative therapies at their own expense much sooner than the current approval process allows.  The Patient Choice Act would give patients facing difficult situations towards the end of their lives more control over their own medical decisions.  Why should the federal government interfere if a patient whose doctors have told them that the end of life is nearing wishes to spend his/her own money on an experimental treatment plan that may not yet have made it through the FDA’s lengthy approval process?
  • The Compassionate Freedom of Choice Act (H.R. 4475), which I introduced in April, would also empower patients battling deadly diseases with more control over their health care decisions.  Specifically, my legislation would allow terminally ill patients to use drugs, treatments, and devices that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) if their physicians certify that such patients have no other treatment options and the patient gives written, informed consent that they are aware of any potentials risks of the treatment.  Again, I ask: for patients whose doctors have exhausted current medical options and the patient has been told that the end of life is nearing, why should the government in Washington care what treatment the patient may choose?  The FDA was created to protect us from harmful drugs.  If I'm dying anyway, shouldn't I have the freedom to decide if the risk is worth it?
  • While I support repealing Obamacare, I believe it is wrong to take away the Black Lung benefit improvements included in Obamacare as amendments.  To ensure that these benefits can be kept when Obamacare is repealed or when it collapses, I introduced H.R. 3162, which would keep intact the amendments that were made to the Black Lung Benefits Act as part of the health care law.
  • Most recently I introduced H.R. 4489, the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act (LUMMA).  This bill would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug (allowing for more research on its risks/benefits), and would also prohibit the federal government from preventing the prescription, possession, transportation, and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes in compliance with applicable state law such as the Virginia medicinal marijuana law that has been on the books since 1979.  LUMMA does not involve the  recreational use of marijuana – which I oppose – but instead would put marijuana in the same category as drugs like codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, and others which are currently accepted for medical use.  There are reports of marijuana’s medicinal benefits in treating cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, etc.  Isn’t it cruel to not research this further, and cruel to not allow real doctors, real drug companies, and real pharmacists to use marijuana for legitimate medical reasons for real patients? 
In addition to the bills mentioned above, I have cosponsored 20 bills introduced by other representatives that I believe advance my goal of helping patients.  Among those is the Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act (H.R. 241) introduced by Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL), which would see that veterans seeking care from Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities are given an appointment within 30 days.

I will continue to work on additional legislation that will help patients receive health care in a doctor-patient-driven system.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office by email, please visit my website at

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