CHARLESTON – Supporters across the state and nation to cut costs on expensive prescription drugs and expand health insurance are urging West Virginia to get on the bus.
Protect Our Care, a healthcare advocacy organization, held its nationwide bus tour at the State Capitol Building in Charleston on Monday afternoon. Charleston was the last of two stops in West Virginia for the bus tour and one of 36 events held in 19 states. The group stopped in Morgantown last week.
The group is traveling across the country to promote health care expansion through President Joe Biden’s US bailout, the $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan that Congress passed in March . Protect Our Care also promotes efforts to make prescription drugs more affordable, such as HR 3, the Reduced Drug Costs Act.
The US bailout has provided short-term tax incentives to states that have yet to agree to expand their Medicaid programs through the Affordable Care Act to do so. West Virginia is one of 39 states that already offer expanded Medicaid coverage and adopted it in 2014. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 20,000 West Virginia purchased health insurance in the federal market in 2021. .
States can also receive a 10 percent increase in matching funds for Home and Community Services (HCBS) through Medicaid, an 85 percent match to provide community-based mobile crisis intervention, and states can tap into in supplier relief payments of $ 8.5 billion for rural areas. health care providers. The plan also reduced or eliminated premiums in the federal market and expanded postpartum coverage for women.
Protect Our Care wants to see the subsidies included in the US bailout made permanent. The original version of the US plan for Biden’s families locked down many of the healthcare provisions of the US bailout.
Parts of the US plan for families will likely feature in the $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package drafted by Democrats in the US Senate.
State Senator Rich Lindsay, D-Kanawha, praised US Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., for supporting the procedural vote needed to start the budget reconciliation process, which will only require 51 votes once the draft is completed. drafted law. U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., joined Republicans in trying to block the review. The budget reconciliation package is also unlikely to gain Republicans’ support in the US House of Representatives.
“We need to start by thanking Senator Joe Manchin and supporting the budget resolution that does three things: cuts healthcare costs, lowers drug prices, and makes healthcare accessible to more West Virginia and more Americans ” Lindsay said.
“The first thing we probably need to do … our poor and our elderly benefit more from a good health policy and an affordable health policy”, Lindsay continued.
House Health and Human Resources Minority President Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, and Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, cited the passage by the West Virginia legislature in 2020 of a bill capping the insulin co-payment at $ 100. But both said most of the big push needs to be done at the federal level.
“Medicines that save lives are too expensive for a lot of people. They need it and cannot always afford it ”, Pushkin said. “We need to take bold action. And really, it will take Congress to take the kind of bold action that’s in this budget reconciliation package in order to get the job done. We have a chance to do so.
“I think when someone gets a medical diagnosis the first thing they should worry about is taking care of themselves and their families, not their bank accounts,” said Young. “People need affordable health care. And Congress has the ability to do it for both West Virginia and American families. “
The Lower Drug Costs Now Act would give the US Department of Health and Human Services the power to negotiate maximum prices for certain brand name drugs when generics are not available and represent the largest portion of federal HHS and Medicare spending. . The bill also gives the HHS the power to negotiate the cost of newly approved drugs and insulin products.
According to Support Our Care WV, HR3 could save taxpayers an estimated $ 500 billion over the next 10 years while making prescription drugs more affordable for people on low or fixed incomes, potentially lowering the prices of drugs. drugs up to 55%. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, West Virginia paid more than $ 51 million in cash for prescription drugs in 2019.
Mindy Salango, a type 1 diabetic, and Laura Packard, a cancer survivor and beneficiary of the Affordable Care Act, said federal action was needed to counter the greed of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.
“If our government does not protect our most vulnerable citizens and our sickest citizens, then who benefits? Who are we protecting? And I’m sad to say that the answer to that is pharmaceutical company executives ”, said Salango. “They line the pockets of our government officials, and they don’t speak for us.”
“No one should be forced to make these decisions in the richest country in the world”, Packard said. “Why do we pay more for prescription drugs than any other country? We must do better. And Congress now has the ability to do so. So now our job is to get them to. “
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