If Congress passes Trumpcare—otherwise known as the American Health Care Act of 2017—the legislation could dramatically alter what services insurers cover, among other things. But the bill isn’t the only one circulating through Congress. With Trumpcare in limbo after Republicans cancelled a planned vote on Thursday due to lack of GOP support, it’s a perfect time to look at some alternative legislation on Capitol Hill. These bills may not go anywhere in Congress, but many concern the cost of drugs, something that AHCA does not directly address—and may need to eventually.
Who is responsible: S. 469—Senator Bernie Sanders (Democrat, Vermont); H.R. 1245—Who is responsible: Representative Elijah Cummings (Democrat, Maryland)
What they propose: These companion bills would allow the importation of drugs from Canada.
Why they matter: The U.S. spends more than any other country on prescription drugs in part due to their high price tags. Medications are often less expensive in other countries, but Americans in need are denied access. In 1999, Senator Sanders took a bus filled with fellow Americans into Canada to purchase prescription drugs. Passage of this bill means he would not have to do that again. (Nobody wants to take a bus if they don’t have to.)
Who is responsible: Senators Susan Collins (Republican, Maine) and Claire McCaskill (Democrat, Missouri)
What it proposes: An easier route for generic drugs, which cost less than their branded predecessors, to enter the marketplace.
Why it matters: Generic drugs introduce competition, which could force manufacturers to lower the cost of branded products. Also, more generic drugs would mean more concerns about whether generics are equivalent to brand-name medications, which would help take our minds off the potential consequences of AHCA.
Lower Drug Costs Through Competition Act (H.R. 749)
Who is responsible: Representatives Kurt Schrader (Democrat, Oregon) and Gus Bilirakis (Republican, Florida)
What it proposes: Providing incentives to drug makers to create generic drugs where none currently exist or to address a drug shortage.
Why it matters: The bill could stop sudden price hikes of generic drugs made in the absence of competition, which is what Martin Shkreli was vilified for doing.
Who is responsible: Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat, Minnesota)
What it proposes: Allowing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
Why it matters: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is currently forbidden by law from negotiating drug prices. President Donald Trump supposedly favors the change. Prior administrations have tried and failed, but the growing frustration about drug prices means this attempt could work.
Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2017 (H.R. 1480 and S. 64)
Who is responsible: H.R. 1480 - Representative Chellie Pingree (Democrat, Maine); S. 64 – Senator John McCain (Republican, Arizona)
What it proposes: Like Senator Sanders’s bill above, this proposal would amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to allow importation of drugs from Canada.
Why it matters: Again, allowing U.S. citizens to buy less expensive drugs from our neighbor to the north would lower spending on prescription medications.
Short on Competition Act (S. 183)
Who is responsible: Senators Amy Klobuchar (Democrat, Minnesota) and Mike Lee (Republican, Utah)
What it proposes: Expedited approval of generic drugs to increase competition.
Why it matters: This bill could also prevent price hikes similar to the one made by Shkreli. That could mean fewer people wealthy enough to purchase and stream a $2 million Wu Tang Clan album.
Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act (H.R. 676)
Who is responsible: Representative John Conyers, Jr. (Democrat, Michigan)
What it proposes: A single-payer public healthcare system.
Why it matters: Only those in favor of universal healthcare—and who thrive on frustration—should read this bill.
Patient Freedom Act of 2017 (S. 191)
Who is responsible: Senator Bill Cassidy (Republican, Louisiana)
What it proposes: An alternative to the ACA that is not the AHCA.
Why it matters: At the moment, it really doesn’t.
World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017 (H.R. 1275)
Who is responsible: Representative Pete Sessions (Republican, Texas)
What it proposes: An alternative to ACA that is not the AHCA.
Why it matters: When it comes to branding, Trump is a master. But he could learn a thing or two from Pete Sessions. Bigly.
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