Health care is a deeply important subject for me. Whenever I spend time in our community, I hear loud and clear from constituents how important access to high-quality, affordable health care is to them.
In my first term, I was proud to support two pieces of legislation that were enacted into law: the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act and the Protect Medical Innovation Act. At the end of 2020, we were also able to pass legislation to address surprise medical billing, protecting patients and their families from unexpected costs and the confusing and frustrating interactions between providers and insurance companies.
However, the fight for more accessible and affordable care in this country is far from over. The Affordable Care Act was an important step towards coverage for all Americans, and I will continue to work to protect and stabilize the ACA. I am supportive of a public option, through a bill called Medicare X Choice Act, which would supplement existing health insurance options and increase competition in the market. In June, I joined Senator Casey in a virtual roundtable with health care advocates to call on Congress to invest in affordable health care. I will continue my advocacy to lower the escalating costs of prescription drugs.
In August 2022, I voted to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes provisions that make historic progress in making health care more affordable and accessible. Because of this legislation, Medicare will be able to directly negotiate the cost of prescription drugs and cap the out-of-pocket costs for recipients at $2,000 per year. The Act also extends ACA subsidies for low- and middle-income people for three years and provides seniors with Medicare Part D with free access to eligible vaccines. And at a time when too many people have to choose between buying groceries or paying for their prescriptions, the IRA caps the price of insulin at $35 for Medicare patients. This bill is an important step toward securing quality health care for everyone.
At home in Pennsylvania, we have felt the effects of two hospital closures as Tower Health shut down both the Jennersville and Brandywine hospitals. After remaining in close contact with state and local officials and closely monitoring the situation, I was pleased to learn that a Wilmington-based health care provider purchased the former Jennersville Hospital location in West Grove from Tower Health in June 2022. In the interim, I have worked to deliver $1.4 million in funds to the Chester County Hospital to help expand emergency, inpatient, and mental health care services. In October, I hosted U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on a tour the expansion as it was still under construction. Though there is work to be done to ensure everyone in our community has access to high quality, affordable health care services, this expansion will provide vital space and resources for our care system as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have also spoken with health care leaders over lack of funding for opioid treatment and prevention programs in Chester and Berks counties. That’s why I cosponsored the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act, which provides $5 billion over five years in federal grants to states for response to the opioid epidemic.
I know that mental health is an extremely important aspect of keeping our community healthy. I cosponsored and supported the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019, which has gone into effect with the launch of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. I also cosponsored the Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act to expand mental health services available under Medicaid.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have worked hard to ensure that all Americans have access to timely and affordable testing and a national vaccination strategy that is helping our economy reopen safely. When it was discovered that private health insurance companies were covering costs of at-home tests and masks, but Medicare was not, I signed onto a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services imploring him to remedy this inequity. As a result, Medicare beneficiaries can receive free COVID home tests.
Keeping our community informed about the pandemic has been a priority for me, which is why I hosted multiple telephone town halls to share information. One was about the Delta variant and included local health experts, and another was held during National Hispanic Heritage Month in Spanish to help dispel misinformation and increase awareness of the importance and safety of getting vaccinated.
To acknowledge the hard work of our frontline healthcare workers during these difficult and challenging times, I started the Share-A-Smile Program. We collected homemade “thank you” cards from some of my youngest constituents and distributed them to our health department and hospital staff in appreciation for all their efforts.
I’m proud of the medical innovation that happens in our community, and during the COVID pandemic, I’ve been heartened to see many companies and their teams step up to the challenge of developing and manufacturing personal protective equipment, vaccines, treatments, and other important innovations. I believe we need to be investing heavily in research and development for new treatments and cures, including for rare diseases. That’s why I’m a cosponsor of the Biomedical Innovation Expansion Act, which would invest $10 billion over the next ten years in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is also why I am a proud co-lead of the bipartisan Domestic Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Caucus to build on this country’s continued innovation and shore up a steady supply of pharmaceuticals in the event of public health emergencies of natural disasters.
Every member of our community has a right to affordable care, and as your Representative, I’m bringing our concerns to Washington to ensure the health care system works for all of us.