Lawmakers call for lowering health care costs to address disparities in pandemic

Laveta Brigham

Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday voiced support for lower drug and insurance costs to address health disparities during the pandemic, while diverging on how to make that happen. Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodOvernight Health Care: First signs of Thanksgiving wave emerge | FDA says Pfizer vaccine is highly effective, even after […]

Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday voiced support for lower drug and insurance costs to address health disparities during the pandemic, while diverging on how to make that happen.

Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodOvernight Health Care: First signs of Thanksgiving wave emerge | FDA says Pfizer vaccine is highly effective, even after first dose | Biden aims for 100 million vaccinations in first hundred days Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils health team with Becerra, Murthy, Walensky in top roles | Trump officials deny turning down additional doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine | Fauci: Christmas could be worse than Thanksgiving for coronavirus spread Ransomware attacks pose 2021 challenges for Congress MORE (D-Ill.) and Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidySupport grows for stimulus checks, but they may wait Overnight Health Care: First signs of Thanksgiving wave emerge | FDA says Pfizer vaccine is highly effective, even after first dose | Biden aims for 100 million vaccinations in first hundred days The COVID-19 relief bill: Why compromise is back in Washington MORE (R-La.), speaking at The Hill’s From Platform to Policy: 2021 Health Care Agenda event, said there’s a role for government to play, particularly amid the coronavirus.

Underwood, who is co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, stressed the need to address the disparities in coronavirus treatment accessibility for vulnerable populations, particularly minority women who are pregnant.

“We need to make sure that other important vulnerable populations like pregnant people have a vaccine,” Underwood told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

“We’ve seen data from the CDC that shows that African American and Hispanic women are having negative birth outcomes because of COVID exacerbating existing disparities.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for severe illness compared with women who are not pregnant.

Cassidy, speaking at the event sponsored by PhRMA, argued that health care reform, not the 2010 Affordable Care Act, is the best way to lower costs.

“The goals of health care reform are lower costs, ensure access to as many people as possible and make sure that you have the highest quality of health care,” said Cassidy, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

He also highlighted the speed at which the science and medical community has developed a vaccine for the coronavirus.

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump taps Conway, Chao to government posts in waning days of administration Pelosi, Schumer hit Trump but cite ‘progress’ in COVID relief talks House GOP leader trolls Democrats over reduced majority MORE and Congress have taken steps toward lowering health care-related costs amid the pandemic.

Trump last month announced two major actions aimed at lowering the price of prescription drugs.

One rule would lower drug prices in Medicare Part B to match the lower prices paid in other wealthy countries, a proposal known as “most favored nation.” The second action would eliminate the rebates that drugmakers pay to “middlemen” known as pharmacy benefit managers, in a bid to simplify the drug pricing system and pass the discounts on to consumers instead.

Congress, meanwhile, has come close to advancing a measure that would largely prevent “surprise” medical bills — for when patients are treated by doctors outside their network in emergency situations. But those efforts recently hit a roadblock amid competing measures.

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