Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 2.11.22
What Republicans Are For, Part II: Improving Health Care
In a previous column, I responded to President Biden’s challenge to identify what Republicans are for. In this column, I will continue to lay out my positive vision for policies that will benefit the American people with a specific focus on health care.
Decisions about health care are among an individual’s most personal and important choices. Too often, the choices available are burdensome and costly. In rural areas like much of Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District, improving affordability, availability, and choice in health care often tops the list of concerns of constituents.
I believe we can make progress without resorting to the heavy-handed, high-tax government meddling that would come with leftist proposals such as Medicare for All. One of the virtues of our system is constant medical innovation delivering new cures or ways to deliver treatment. Fixes for the problems in our health care system must not destroy its benefits at the same time.
One path forward has emerged during the coronavirus pandemic.
Before COVID-19, telehealth offered promise for patients in remote and isolated areas, but it was subject to restrictions. During the pandemic, government agencies lifted a number of regulations and requirements as a way to care for patients while hospitals focused on COVID cases or to prevent the spread of the virus. I believe permanently lifting many of these restrictions ought to be considered.
We need to continue looking for unnecessary artificial restrictions on telehealth to remove so this form of care can achieve the greatest impact.
Other regulatory reforms I would like to see include adjustments to the Stark Act to streamline health services, promoting the free communication of medical product information, expanding access to compounded medications, and reducing barriers to research of cannabis and Schedule I drugs.
The burden of prescription drug prices can fall heavily on patients, but Americans benefit from continual research and innovation to achieve new cures and remedies. Addressing the former should not come at the expense of the latter.
In this Congress, I am a cosponsor of the Lower Costs, More Cures Act. This bill would encourage lower drug prices by instituting more transparency in the system. It would provide a limit on what seniors in Medicare Part D pay out of pocket and also limit what they pay for insulin, a product which has been available for a century but has soared in price these past few years. The approach taken by this bill would make a difference in what people pay for prescription drugs without limiting the development of new treatment options.
Another reform for prescription drugs centers on the fees exacted by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). They are the middlemen between health insurers and pharmacists, and they can sometimes impose fees on pharmacists for drugs already sold at a certain price after the fact. These fees inflict a great hardship on pharmacists, especially those serving rural areas. I’m working to end these fees and bring more transparency to drug pricing.
Any health policy agenda must account for the alarming number of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data determined that they amounted to more than 100,000 in the twelve-month period ending in April 2021.
Drug overdoses had been a public health emergency prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic contributed to the problem by disrupting treatments and therapy for those struggling with substance abuse.
Addressing drug overdoses must also account for changes in their causes. The opioid epidemic that has swept across the land began primarily with prescription painkillers before shifting to illegal opioids such as heroin. Today, the synthetic opioid fentanyl and its thousands of analogs pose the greatest danger.
I’ve introduced the HALT Fentanyl Act with Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH) to permanently place fentanyl-related substances into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, signifying their extreme risk. The bill would also allow for research into these substances, however, so we can understand them better and potentially harness any beneficial properties. I believe this path forward appropriately balances public health and scientific research.
The agenda I’ve put forward in health care would improve access, affordability, and choice without sacrificing quality or innovation. Most Americans believe our health care system must do better, and I believe these ideas would deliver.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.