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Pallone on Committee Passage of Lower Drug Costs Now Act and Bills to Strengthen Medicare Coverage

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) released the following statement after the full Committee voted to favorably advance H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, and four bills to strengthen Medicare coverage for beneficiaries:

“With the Energy and Commerce Committee’s action today, we are one step closer to finally empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for the American people.  The Lower Drug Costs Now Act levels the playing field by ensuring that Americans are not forced to pay three, four or ten times more than people in other countries for the same drugs.   This transformative legislation will also save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars that we can reinvest in the search for new cures and treatments and strengthening our health care system. 

“The Committee also advanced important legislation to strengthen Medicare coverage for beneficiaries by adding new vision, hearing and dental benefits to seniors through Medicare Part B as well increasing eligibility levels for the Medicare Savings Program.

“Taken together, these bills will rein in costs and improve coverage for the people.  I commend my Committee colleagues for their work on these important bills and look forward to a vote of the full House soon.”

The Committee favorably reported the following bills:

H.R. 3, the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act,” introduced by Pallone, Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), would lower prescription drug costs by empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prices for Americans, stopping drug companies from ripping off Americans and charging them more than other countries for the same drugs and creating a new, $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for seniors in Medicare Part D.  An AINS was offered to this legislation during the Committee markup.  H.R. 3 was passed, as amended, by a vote of 30-22.

H.R. 4665, the “Medicare Vision Act” introduced by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-WA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA), would add a vision benefit to Medicare Part B.  The Medicare program currently only covers vision services related to certain eye diseases such as glaucoma.  H.R. 4665 seeks to fill this gap in coverage by providing Medicare beneficiaries with access to routine eye exams, eyeglasses and contact lenses.  The bill was passed by voice vote.

H.R. 4671, the “Helping Seniors Afford Health Care Act,” introduced by Reps. Andy Kim (D-NJ), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Dwight Evans (D-PA), would modify the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and increase the income eligibility levels for partial dual-eligible beneficiaries who receive financial assistance through MSP.  The MSP provides financial assistance for Medicare premiums and cost-sharing for eligible low-income adults over age 65 and adults with disabilities.  The bill was passed by voice vote.

H.R. 4618, the “Medicare Hearing Act,” introduced by Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), would add a hearing benefit to Medicare Part B.  The Medicare program currently covers hearing and balance exams but excludes coverage for most other hearing services and hearing aids.  The bill was passed by voice vote.

H.R. 4650, the “Medicare Dental Act,” introduced by Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Steven Horsford (D-NV), would add a dental benefit to Medicare Part B.  The Medicare program currently excludes coverage for most dental services such as preventive dental care, routine dental treatments or dentures.  The bill was passed by voice vote.

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