Energy and Commerce Work

As you know, I serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The following are some of the issues we are working on.

Progress on Prescription Drug Prices

High prescription drug prices are a burden on many Ninth District residents. There are a variety of reasons why prices have soared, but one necessary factor in order to bring them down is transparency.

Thanks to legislation that has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, transparency will be coming to drug prices. Both chambers of Congress passed the Know the Lowest Price Act of 2018 and the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act. These bills prohibit “gag clauses,” which I have discussed in this column before.

In some circumstances, a person could save money by paying cash for a prescription instead of using health insurance, but gag clauses imposed by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have prohibited pharmacists from telling their customers that information.

This practice is unfair, and I was an original cosponsor of the Know the Cost Act to ban gag clauses. This legislation was unanimously voted out of the Energy and Commerce Committee in September and is similar to the bills that later passed the House and the Senate, both of which are supported by President Trump.

More work remains to be done to make prescription drugs affordable, but banning gag clauses and encouraging transparency will help achieve this goal.

Caring for New Mothers

The death of any new mother in childbirth or due to its complications is a tragedy. Unfortunately, such tragedies have occurred more frequently in recent years in the United States.

Among numerous indicators of this trend, a 2016 report found a near-27 percent increase in the maternal mortality rate for 48 states and Washington, D.C. from 2000 to 2014.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, on which I serve, held a recent hearing to look more closely at this disturbing trend. We heard testimony from medical professionals and advocates, including a man who had lost his wife after she gave birth via cesarian section due to inattention by medical staff.

We examined draft legislation, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018, with the hope of reducing these tragedies.

To address the problem, we first need better information. This legislation improves data collection on maternal mortality. Having more comprehensive information would serve the Ninth District well by letting us compare data at a regional and national level. This would be accomplished by reporting this information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When an area is near several states, as ours is, having information only at the state level offers limited benefits.

Rising maternal mortality in America is a troubling trend. We can and will do better.

Energy Security

Energy powers our country’s economy, our national security, our leisure and recreational activities, almost our entire way of life. Because energy is pervasive, it is vulnerable to risks, whether accidents, natural disasters, or people who wish to do harm.

Threats to energy infrastructure require vigilance on the part of government and the energy industry. Vulnerabilities need to be assessed, plans need to be made for contingencies, and awareness needs to keep up with threats that constantly evolve. In a wireless world, cyber threats are as real a danger as physical threats.

The Energy Subcommittee I serve on recently held a hearing to consider this important topic, featuring testimony from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response.

I used my time to ask the Assistant Secretary about pipeline security, a topic critical for American energy security and personally meaningful for Ninth District residents with property currently crossed by or near pipelines and residents in the pathway of new pipelines.

Technology exists that can sense problems, such as leaks, where they occur. The same technology can tell you when someone is walking, driving, or shoveling near the pipeline. Requiring this technology to be added to any new pipelines and any pipelines that are being repaired would be a great asset for ensuring the security of vast lengths of pipelines. Accordingly, I urged the Assistant Secretary to look at it as a solution.

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 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.

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