Healthcare continues to be a chief topic for U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler as legislation for medically complex children, pharmaceutical costs and concerns over any “Medicare for all” lawmaking were chief among topics during a telephone town hall hosted by the lawmaker April 8.
Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, heard from close to a dozen constituents during the call-in event, answering questions from Washington, D.C. Though the conversation touched on Interstate 5 bridge replacement, tolling in the Portland metro area and immigration, different aspects of health care made up a large portion of both constituent questions as well as her own update on legislative work in the nation’s capital.
Herrera Beutler brought up the recent passing of the ACE Kids Act out of the U.S. Senate, following a similar passage out of the House in March. She said the legislation would allow families of “medically complex” children — such as those with cancer, congenital heart issues or Down syndrome — greater ability to access “high quality, specialized care” even if they had to cross state lines.
Herrera Beutler said the legislation, currently awaiting a signature from the president, was particularly useful for families in rural or low-income demographics. She gave examples of Southwest Washington families who were closer to facilities in Oregon than comparable ones in the Seattle area, noting she has had to personally intervene on behalf of families.
“Unfortunately the way the Medicaid system has been operating, it’s been a barrier for people to get across state lines to get the care that they need,” Herrera Beutler said. She said she was “beyond thrilled” that the ACE Kids Act was moving forward, five years since she has been working on the legislation.
Maternal mortality was another issue Herrera Beutler addressed, saying that between 700 to 900 women die every year in the U.S. from pregnancy-related causes. She said there was a bipartisan effort to tackle the issue, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stated 60 percent of those deaths were preventable.
Though nothing was currently scheduled for a vote as of the call, Herrera Beutler touched on potential legislation regarding Medicare for All, something she was not in favor of.
“I don’t think this is a direction our country can afford to go,” Herrera Beutler said, not only from a purely financial aspect, but also with regard to how the Congresswoman said such a plan would remove Americans’ choice on health care.
“I believe the goal is laudable. Let’s take care of our neighbors,” Herrera Beutler said. “The reality is a Medicare for All bill would essentially mean quality and choice for none.”
Herrera Beutler said that Medicare for All would result in “one size fits all” health plans which for those with more unique conditions and needs could result in long wait times and inadequate care.
Though Herrera Beutler was a proponent of a market-based health care system she noted that in some cases funding for research in diseases, specifically more rare ones, often didn’t have a market driver. Instead she pointed to increased funding for the National Institutes of Health to take on that research, adding that in the last four years the House Appropriations Committee has increased NIH funding by $9 billion.
“We have seen amazing results because of it,” Herrera Beutler remarked.
One of the biggest issues affecting U.S. health care was the stranglehold the pharmaceutical industry had on medications. She pointed to the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act, explaining that on average drugs from the country were a third of the cost of the same ones available in the States.
“There’s no reason we should be paying hundreds of dollars more for a prescription when the same company is selling the same drug in a different country for less,” Herrera Beutler said, adding the legislation would make safe important possible.
Herrera Beutler leveled praise at the Trump Administration’s work on reducing drug costs, even over the objections of the pharmaceutical industry.
“That’s an area where I feel like, especially historically on the Republican side of the aisle has been more of a sacred cow,” Herrera Beutler, reiterating her desire for a free market solution.
“Right now the health care system is not a free market, period,” Herrera Beutler remarked. “There’s a couple legislative things that I’m doing but I also support the overall willingness to stand up to some of these companies who I think, it’s not a free market situation, it’s an extortion situation where they are driving up the cost of prescriptions at the expense of people who need them.”