House Healthcare Package Seeks to Lower Drug Prices and Stabilize the Marketplace

Siena Ruggeri
May 13, 2019

The House has released a newly-combined package of healthcare bills that will have a positive effect on both prescription drug prices and the affordability and accessibility of health insurance coverage. NETWORK supports all seven bills included in the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987). The package contains three bills concerning drug pricing and four bills addressing the stabilization of the healthcare marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The prescription drug pricing legislation would mainly increase generic competition, which can help make affordable drugs available more quickly to consumers. The four bills in the package designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act would increase support for consumers and state marketplaces and ensure health care plans offer full coverage.

Prescription Drug Bills

The prescription drug pricing bills included in the package are:

  • The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 (H.R. 1499)
  • The BLOCKING Act of 2019 (H.R. 938)
  • The CREATES Act of 2019 (H.R.965)

The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 would make it illegal for brand-name and generic drug manufacturers to enter into agreements in which the brand-name drug manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer to keep a generic equivalent off the market. These agreements are known as “pay-for-delay” deals.

Two other two drug pricing bills are bipartisan proposals. The BLOCKING (Bringing Low-cost Options and Competition while Keeping Incentives for New Generics) Act of 2019 discourages an exclusivity period for generic applicants wanting to produce a drug that is no longer patented.

The CREATES (Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples) Act of 2019 would help generic drug manufacturers quickly acquire the samples they need to start making an affordable generic version of a drug. Currently, brand-name drug companies can game safety protocols to delay generic entry into the market. If enacted, this legislation would help generic competition get on the market faster and ensure consumers have affordable options for the prescriptions they need.

ACA Stabilization Bills

The bills concerning the Affordable Care Act in the package are:

  • The MORE Health Education Act (R.987),
  • R. 1010, Limiting the availability of “junk plans”
  • The State Allowance for a Variety of Exchanges (SAVE) Act (R.1386)
  • The ENROLL Act of 2019 (R.1386)

The Marketing and Outreach Restoration to Empower (MORE) Health Education Act would provide funding for outreach to underserved communities to help community members enroll in healthcare plans on the ACA marketplace. This funding has been slashed by the Trump administration in the past couple of years, making it harder for consumers to stay informed about the health insurance options.

H.R.1010 reverses the Trump Administration expansion of short-term, limited-duration insurance plans. These “junk plans” do not cover maternal or mental health, can discriminate based on age, gender, and preexisting conditions, and leave users without care in a medical crisis.

The SAVE Act provides federal funding to help states set up state-based health insurance marketplaces and expand healthcare to more people in their states.

The ENROLL Act would provide $100 million in funding to the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) navigator program. Navigator programs are an essential part of the ACA’s success and have faced devastating cuts for the past couple of years.

Restoring the Affordable Care Act

These fixes would restore important provisions in the original Affordable Care Act that ensured low-income and medically underserved communities had access to information and support to decide between their health insurance options. All healthcare coverage must be comprehensive and reliable in an emergency—short-term insurance is no substitute. In order to provide accessible, affordable, and high-quality healthcare, we must ensure these ACA provisions stay in place to protect consumers and support them in their healthcare choices.