December 11, 2019


WASHINGTON – This week, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MA) held the House Democratic leadership’s weekly press conference, where they outlined House Democrats’ Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which will reduce the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs and save American taxpayers nearly $500 billion over the next 10 years. This monumental legislation will be voted on this week. They were joined by Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton and Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA), a pediatrician and the only female doctor in Congress.

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: House Democrats in the very beginning of our new majority indicated that we were going to focus on driving down the high price of life-saving prescription drugs. We in America pay more for the same drug often manufactured in the same location than any other developed nation in the world. And there's no reason for it. It hurts everyday Americans. It hurts seniors. And with H.R. 3, we're determined to change that. We said from the very beginning, we're going to focus on kitchen-table, pocketbook issues on behalf of the American people. That is exactly what we are doing. There is no way the federal government should not have the ability to use its bulk price purchasing power to drive down the high price of life-saving prescription drugs. That is what H.R. 3 will begin to accomplish on behalf of the American people. It's transformative. 

We also will continue to work on other kitchen-table, pocketbook issues as we are doing such as coming to an agreement with the president on a forward-looking progressive trade agreement that will benefit American families, American workers and people who were left behind as a result of the NAFTA agreement.


Every single day, every single week, every single month that we are here in Washington,Democrats wake up to get things done on behalf of working families, middle class folks, senior citizens, the poor, the sick, the afflicted, the least, the lost and the left behind.That's what House Democrats do at our best. That is what we have been doing. That is what we are doing. That is what we will continue to do.


REP. SHALALA: Only a few times in history has Congress actually come together to pass legislation that dramatically improves the lives of Americans. Think about Social Security, about Medicare, about Medicaid, about the Affordable Care Act, about Americans with Disabilities Act, about the Children's Health Insurance. This is on that scale. This is not some little incremental bill. This is one of those giant steps that we take probably once every decade or so, that where we're able to identify an issue that affects every single person in our country. It's on that scale. And in some ways, we're taking the president at his word. He said he wanted to negotiate like heck with the pharmaceutical companies and negotiate directly with them.


H.R. 3 makes fundamental reforms to reduce drug prices and to keep cost hikes to no more than inflation and to limit out-of-pocket costs for those on Medicare, on employer plans and private health insurance. That's the important thing. We're using the power of Medicare to negotiate directly with the drug companies, but employer plans and private health insurance can also take advantage of those lower costs.


I served as the HHS secretary for eight years under Bill Clinton. I repeatedly asked for the ability to negotiate with drug companies. I would have loved to have this power. Only drug companies get to come to Medicare and set their own prices. Hospitals don't get to do that. Doctors don't get to do that. Home health care workers don't get to do that. In fact, negotiation is the hallmark of good governance and a standard feature of the federal government policy. 

We negotiate for everything, including ships and planes and military equipment, and contractors for a lot of services. If we can negotiate for big ships, we can negotiate for little pills. […]  We will pass this bill because the American people understand that they simply are getting ripped off under the current system.


REP. SCHRIER: I am Kim Schrier. I am part of this freshman class and I am so excited to vote for H.R. 3 to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. This is a ground-breaking bill. […] Because it doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican. If you cannot afford your medications, they're not going to do you any good. And if you can't afford them, you want somebody who's going to go to bat. And so, I ran on this issue.

Now, I also am a pediatrician and I have Type 1 diabetes. […] I have seen the price of my insulin go from $40 twenty years ago, to $300 today. And let me remind you that that is for a bottle that holds two teaspoons of medication, making it comparable in price to cobra venom.


You've heard from my colleagues already, but these are the pillars of this bill. It finally gives the power to Medicare to be able to negotiate the costs of prescription drugs. This is the biggest buyer of medications in the world. We should have the power of negotiation. It then extends those prices, which are based on the averages in those six other countries I mentioned, to private payers. It focuses first on the most expensive medications and on insulin. So, this will offer a life-saving relief to so many people. And it also caps out-of-pocket expenses for seniors at $2000 a year. This saves hundreds of billions of dollars. And we're going to use that money well.

One of those ways is a bill I've introduced to go along with this that will have Medicare finally cover vision and eyeglasses for seniors, because that is a tremendous gap in coverage of all people who need glasses and vision care at the most.


VICE CHAIR CLARK: Since day one of the House Democratic majority, we have advanced policies like the prescription drug policy that recognizes the vital role that women play in our communities, our economy and our country and that address the systemic barriers that hold women back. […] Two bills that strengthen health care and reverse the Trump administration's sabotage of the ACA will address the maternal mortality crisis, lower health care costs and expand access to care, including reproductive health care.

But there's a big "but" here, and that is Mitch McConnell, standing in the way of these bills and progress for Americans. In fact, of the nearly 400 bills that have been passed by the House, Mitch McConnell is obstructing 300 of them. 


This week, 90 women of the Democratic Women's Caucus are sending a letter to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling on him to stop the obstruction and to take swift action on the House bills that will directly benefit America's women and their families. 

Senate Majority Leader, for too long, women and their families have been held back. Women and girls deserve better. American women deserve a vote. We cannot wait another day. And we've been quoting a lot of framers this week as we look at the constitutional crisis that we're in an impeachment. But I'm going to paraphrase Tom Petty.We won't back down.


Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.