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Congressman Adrian Smith

Representing the 3rd District of Nebraska

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Affordable Health Care

April 12, 2019
Column

Prescription drugs are vitally important to all Americans – every one of us included.  Advances in science and technology have opened the doors to treat or cure thousands of diseases which not too long ago would have been considered a death sentence. 

However, as the cost of health care continues to rise, consumers have grown frustrated with the price tag on some of their prescriptions.  Patients are especially frustrated when the price of a medicine they have been using for an extended period goes up over time, as opposed to many other innovative products like mobile phones or televisions which get cheaper as their time on the market grows.   

Ensuring access to affordable, quality prescriptions drugs has been getting more attention in Washington.  In fact, President Trump, in his State of the Union address, promised to tackle prescription drug prices by asking Congress to pass legislation which “delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients.”  The House of Representatives has responded to the President’s charge by holding numerous hearings to examine drug prices.

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, delivered on the President’s request and unanimously passed the bipartisan Prescription Drug Sunshine, Transparency, Accountability and Reporting (STAR) Act.  This legislation is designed to improve transparency and accountability to help patients navigate the prescription drug market. 

The Prescription Drug STAR Act represents an important first step in bringing much needed transparency to a complicated issue. This transparency will help both Congress and the public to better understand the impacts of prescription drug spending and shortages, and the reasons behind significant price swings.

However, this is just the first step in a longer process. As Congress continues to work on this issue, we must make sure our efforts actually result in tangible savings to patients.  We should take a close look to ensure the standards we set bring useful information to consumers while incentivizing robust competition in the marketplace and continued innovation.  We must not discourage the millions or billions of dollars which go into the research, development, and approval process for each groundbreaking new cure or treatment. 

As the legislative and implementation processes continue for these transparency initiatives, I am eager to hear from Nebraska providers and patients on these efforts. We are fortunate to live in a country where new treatments are available and lifesaving advances in pharmaceutical research are encouraged, and I am glad to have the opportunity to work on these issues for the benefit of consumers.