Drug Prices, Gag Clauses, and Sunlight
High prices for prescription drugs affect the pocketbooks of many residents of the Ninth District. Even with health insurance, people have trouble paying for their prescriptions.
Many factors affect what a person pays when he or she fills a prescription. There isn’t a silver bullet that will take care of this problem, but I believe more transparency is essential to helping address it. As the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant.”
One of the most egregious ways in which lack of transparency results in higher drug prices is the so-called “gag clause.” Sometimes a person can save money by paying cash for a prescription rather than relying on health insurance. But gag clauses imposed by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in contracts can prevent pharmacists from telling customers that they could save money.
This is an unfair practice. Prescription drugs are difficult enough to pay for even when you have all the information on the table.
There are efforts at the federal and state level to bring sunlight to drug prices and end the practice of gag clauses. In the House of Representatives, I am an original co-sponsor of a bill introduced by the only pharmacist in Congress, Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA). This bipartisan bill, H.R. 5343, the Prescription Transparency Act, would prohibit gag clauses at the national level. It has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve.
As the Trump Administration has also taken aim at drug pricing, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma recently noted that her agency views gag clauses as “unacceptable and contrary to our efforts to promote drug price transparency and lower drug prices.”
In Virginia, state Delegate Todd Pillion introduced a bill during this year’s legislative session to prohibit gag clauses in provider contracts entered into, amended, extended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2019. This bill passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Northam.
Ending gag clauses would be a positive step toward greater transparency and, ultimately, lower prices for prescription drugs.
The Korean peninsula, divided between the free Republic of Korea in the south and the totalitarian Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, has been a place of high tension in the world for decades. North Korea has long repressed its people and threatened other nations, including our own. Its quest for nuclear-armed missiles that could reach our shores heightens the need for an effective approach to dealing with this part of the world.
At the time I write this column, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un are expected to meet on June 12 in Singapore. As the president has acknowledged, the meeting could be the start of a productive process, or it could be a bust.
But I think this meeting is worth the attempt. Old approaches to dealing with North Korea have not worked. The security of the United States, its territories such as Guam, and its allies such as South Korea and Japan require us to seek drastic improvement in North Korea’s behavior. If this summit offers any opportunity to deliver peace on the Korean peninsula, it should proceed.
Telephone Town Halls
When I am in Washington during weeks the House is in session, I frequently conduct live, regional toll-free telephone town halls. These events give you the chance to tell me what’s on your mind, what concerns you may have, and your thoughts on important issues facing our Commonwealth and our country.
These calls are made using lists of landline telephone numbers, but I recognize that many people now forego landlines and rely exclusively on cell phones. If this applies to you and you would like to opt in to get telephone town hall calls on your cell phone, you can do so by clicking on the “Update Subscription Options” link at the bottom of this email or by visiting morgangriffith.house.gov.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.