Thank Coal and Prescription Drug Prices

Did Your Power Stay On During the Cold Spell? Thank Coal

Extreme cold temperatures at the end of January imposed hardships on many in Virginia as well as other parts of the country, closing schools and interrupting travel plans, among other difficulties. Some areas in the Midwest experienced record low temperatures well under zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Such periods of extreme cold can strain the electrical grid. The supply of natural gas is squeezed by production issues that arise due to the temperature and the fuel’s use for heating homes. Renewables are not generally as reliable in foul weather, either.

Coal, however, remains reliable, even when a polar vortex hits, so grid operators turn to it to keep your lights on. Data from PJM, which operates the electrical grid providing electricity across all or part of thirteen states including most of Virginia, show that the share of electricity it produced by coal jumped to 36.8%, up from 25.9% in October 2018.

I continue to support an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy production. The first month of 2019 proved again what should be clear: coal must continue to be an essential part of that strategy. It provides benefits that other energy sources cannot match, benefits that may have been the difference between enduring the polar vortex with your lights and heat on or with your power out.

Prescription Drug Prices: A Bipartisan Priority

A new Democrat majority in the House of Representatives generally means different priorities than the ones I support, but not in every case. Republicans and Democrats have worked together in the past on providing affordability and access to prescription drugs, and it looks like we will continue to have bipartisan cooperation on the issue.

I recently reintroduced a bill along with Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) to target one aspect of prescription drug prices: retroactive fees on pharmacists for filling your prescriptions.

When pharmacists fill prescriptions and then apply for reimbursement from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), they can be subject to retroactive fees imposed by PBMs. It is equivalent to buying a tank of gas at one price and then finding out after the fact that you owe the gas station a lot more.

I’ve heard from community pharmacists in the Ninth District that this practice can hurt or even destroy their businesses. They don’t know what these fees will cost them, and sometimes the amounts charged are sizeable.

Community pharmacies often are essential providers for prescriptions in rural areas like Southwest Virginia. Fees that could drive them out of business jeopardize access to prescription drugs for the people in our communities that need them.

Congressman Welch and I introduced legislation to make sure that pharmacists are reimbursed at the rates they were promised. We had introduced the bill in past years. While we don’t agree on many issues, this one has our shared interest.

In the past, when Republicans had the House majority, I have introduced it and he joined me as the lead cosponsor. This year, as he is part of the Democrat majority, he introduced and I joined him as the lead cosponsor. I don’t mind this switch as long as we make progress.

One positive sign coming from the Trump Administration is its work on a rule similar to the legislation we have proposed, eliminating these retroactive fees in Medicare. We have encouraged the Administration to take this step, and hopefully our work on this issue has been noted.

Additional encouraging signs have also come from the Administration, which has offered other proposals of its own to combat high prescription drug prices including a recent plan to encourage that rebates on prescription drugs go directly to patients. I look forward to studying what the Department of Health and Human Services issues.

As this new era of divided government gets underway, we may often be at odds. But I believe there are priorities that lend themselves to bipartisan cooperation. Prescription drug costs are one of these priorities, and I will work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, who wants to help average citizens struggling with the cost of filling their prescriptions.

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.