There is a real need of reform in our health care system to reduce costs and expand access to quality care for all Americans. We must also protect the sanctity of human life and prevent the misuse of federal taxpayer dollars for abortion.
21st Century Cures
I have long pushed for greater emphasis on biomedical research and to improve the public health. Beginning in 2014, I partnered with Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, on the 21st Century Cures initiative. This legislation aims to help patients and their families by speeding up the discovery, development, and delivery of life-saving cures - all in a safe and effective way.
The House passed this game-changing medical innovation bill 392 to 26 on November 30, and the Senate followed suit, voting 94 to 5 on December 7. Marking the peak of our three-year journey, President Obama signed the 21stCentury Cures Act into law on December 13.
Working together and collaborating not just across the political aisle, but also with the experts outside of Congress, we were able to get the job done.
Major Mental Health Reforms
Mental health is an issue that impacts every community and so many families in one way or another. As part of the 21st Century Cures Act, we were also able to advance landmark reforms to our mental health system. For years I worked with Congressman Tim Murphy, R-Pennsylvania, on these bipartisan reforms and how we could reduce the stigma of mental health. Our legislation makes certain the government funds evidence-based program and removes barriers to care.
Combating Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic
As the awful opioid and heroin epidemic continues to tear through Southwest Michigan and communities across the country, Congress came together and passed legislation to address the problem.
In July, the House and Senate passed, and the President signed into law, a sweeping package of laws aimed at attacking the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic from all sides. This critical legislation includes more than a dozen bills advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I was also proud to have chaired the House and Senate Conference Committee that finalized the comprehensive package.
As part of the 21st Century Cures Act an additional $1 billion dollars was allocated to states to address the opioid and heroin epidemic. This first round of federal funding was approved in April and here in Michigan we’ll be receiving more than $16 million in grant funding.
The American Health Care Act
In May, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced legislation, the American Health Care Act, that repeals and replaces Obamacare. There were several important provisions in this bill that I worked on specifically. These included helping those 31 states – like Michigan – that expanded Medicaid eligibility, continuing coverage for kids until age 26 on their parents’ policies, protecting those with pre-existing illnesses, making certain there was no artificial cap on insurance benefits, and providing tax credits and choices for consumers to select their own plans.
As you’re probably aware, I publically announced that I could not accept a previous version of the AHCA as it undermined my commitment to protect those with a pre-existing illness. As a result, I joined with my colleague Representative Billy Long and added an amendment creating a new $8 billion fund aimed at reducing premiums for those with preexisting illnesses in states where a waiver would be granted.
I also voted for a separate bill that makes a simple technical change to ensure that the AHCA and its amendments continue to apply to Congress as well. We should not and will not be exempt from any laws we pass here in Congress.
Senate leaders have emphasized their priority is to focus on reducing premiums and I look forward to those provisions and what I expect will be strong support of the pre-existing illness safeguards that must be part of the final version. Going forward, I pledge to continue to listen and keep your concerns in mind as we work on improving our healthcare system.
Streamlining the FDA Approval Process for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices
As a major life sciences corridor, Southwest Michigan is a national leader in health care research and manufacturing. In 2011 and 2012, I led the way in the House for the successful reauthorization of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) user fee programs for prescription drugs and medical devices. By improving the federal evaluation and approval processes, we significantly helped manufactures here in Michigan and throughout the country better compete with companies overseas by allowing them to bring their life-saving products to patients faster.
The Energy and Commerce Committee has since advanced legislation to modernize the review process for new and generic animal drugs as well. This bipartisan animal health legislation (H.R. 1407) was signed into law in June 2013.
As a member of the Subcommittee on Health, we will be looking to update all of these laws this year in order to further ensure that drugs, treatments, and devices get to patients as fast and as safe as possible. We will also use this opportunity to ensure that the 21st Century Cures Act is implemented as Congress intended.
Exposing, Repealing, and Replacing the Affordable Care Act
I voted against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and support its full repeal and replacement. In the years since the law was signed, it has been plagued by broken promises, numerous implementation challenges, delays, spending overages, and program cancellations. The Energy and Commerce Committee has held multiple hearings to examine the law’s impact on jobs and health insurance premiums and has worked to expose the law’s most harmful provisions. I have also met with employers here in Southwest Michigan to hear firsthand on how the law’s mandates and penalties are harming their business operations and health care for their workers.
Rather than passing costly government mandates, Congress should work toward commonsense reforms that lower health care costs, expand access to quality medical care, and protect the sacred doctor-patient relationship. I will continue to work with local leaders, patients, healthcare providers, our governors, and all others wanted to be constructive as we take the next steps in this process.
Advancing Medicare Payment Reform for Michigan Seniors and Physicians
For more than two years, I worked with Michigan Congressman Dave Camp, then-Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in leading the bipartisan effort to permanently fix the fundamentally flawed Medicare payment model that is used to reimburse our nation’s doctors. The current Medicare payment system – known as the Sustainable Growth Rate or simply the SGR – has been a source of continued worry, threatening physicians who serve Medicare beneficiaries with substantial across-the-board cuts in reimbursement. In July 2013, my Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved a permanent SGR fix (H.R. 2810) that secures stable payments for doctors while promoting the highest quality of care and gives Michigan seniors the peace of mind in knowing that their trusted physician will be there for them.
Protecting our Children’s Health
I have made the health and well-being of our nation’s kids a centerpiece of my committee’s health care agenda. Healthy children do better in school, achieve healthy development, and become healthy adults – all leading to a better quality of life and a healthier community. In July 2013, the House passed Energy and Commerce legislation (H.R. 2094) to support our nation’s schools as they work to ensure they have the capability to treat severe allergic reactions. This life-saving bipartisan legislation provides incentives for states to allow schools to maintain an emergency supply of epinephrine auto-injectors and permit trained school personnel to administer a non-student specific epinephrine shot in case of an emergency.
I am also committed to advancing health research for millions of young patients who suffer from rare and genetic disorders. The House-passed National Pediatric Research Network Act (H.R. 225) brings new hope to families coping with these life-threatening diseases by enabling research networks and consortia to coordinate research activities and advance critically needed treatments.
The ramifications of a doctor shortage are significant to the health of our children. I was proud to help pass the Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act (H.R. 297), which helps ensure the United States maintains an adequate supply of pediatricians and pediatric specialists.
Protecting the Sanctity of Human Life
As a pro-life Member of Congress, I oppose the misuse of federal taxpayer dollars for abortion services and support the conscience rights of our nation’s health care providers. As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I have worked to pass legislation – such as Former-Representative Joe Pitts’ Protect Life Act – to permanently codify restrictions on federal abortion funding. I have supported both the successful ban on partial-birth abortion and the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which recognizes an unborn child as a legal victim, and have supported efforts to criminalize the circumvention of parental notification laws.