Health Care Costs
Reining in out-of-control health care expenses is one of my top priorities. Between rising premiums and skyrocketing prescription drug costs, Utahns are finding it increasingly difficult to receive necessary medicine and care. That is why I’m pushing for more transparency, accountability, innovation, and alignment of health care providers incentives so that savings are delivered directly to consumers.
I support restructuring our current rebate system so that individuals can benefit from the discounts manufacturers and middlemen negotiate behind closed doors. I also support expanding the scope of qualifying health savings account expenses so they can be applied to premiums and direct primary care costs. I have introduced a bill to add transparency and lower out-of-pocket costs by requiring insurance companies to include any rebates in the prices they charge the consumer at the pharmacy counter. This way, even in an overly complex prescription drug market, the patient can benefit from lower costs.
On drug prices, American consumers should not shoulder the world’s costs of research and development in new drugs. American pharmaceutical ingenuity has brought us life-saving vaccines in record time, medical devices, and countless other products. Our policies to lower prescription drug costs should not sacrifice our companies’ intellectual property or threaten research and development.
With more than one quarter of high school students and 10.5 percent of middle schoolers vaping, we must take decisive action to protect a new generation from addiction and serious health risks. Flavored nicotine products are luring kids into a lifetime of addiction—some children as young as ten years old.
As a member of the Senate HELP Committee, I will continue to push the Administration and Congress to act to reverse this deadly trend. I introduced the Ending New Nicotine Dependencies (ENND) Act, which permanently bans flavors, ensures vaping cartridges are tamper-proof, and funds a robust public education campaign by applying the existing tobacco excise tax to e-cigarettes.
On December 20, 2020, my bipartisan Tobacco to 21 legislation became law, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21. Congress should also pass the Smoke-Free Schools Act, a bill I’m cosponsoring that would update the existing ban on tobacco use in schools and childcare facilities to include vaping and e-cigarette use.
In addition to legislative efforts, it’s important that the Administration work with relevant agencies and offices, including the FDA and the Center for Tobacco Products, to help end the vaping crisis. I introduced the Resources to Prevent Youth Vaping Act to require manufacturers to pay user fees to the FDA to help fund stronger oversight of the e-cigarette industry and increase awareness for the danger of e-cigarettes. I have urged Republican and Democratic administrations alike to expeditiously remove flavored products from the market and take other necessary actions to reduce youth vaping.
A multi-front approach is needed to combat the opioid crisis.
On the supply front, we must pressure Mexico, China, and other countries to curtail the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. and establish better detection at our borders. We also have to stop drug companies from promoting opioids to physicians, make it easier for law enforcement to shut down “drug mills” that fill obviously false prescriptions, and establish a federal database to identify multiple prescribers and abusers across state lines.
On the demand front, we must find ways to provide counseling and treatment for those who want to escape drug addiction and ensure that first responders are equipped to prevent overdose deaths. For this reason, I cosponsored the Life Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment (LifeBOAT) Act which would establish a stewardship fee to provide and expand access to substance use treatment. This bill would improve access to treatment and expand substance use treatment options for Americans in need.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I supported efforts to provide economic stability for American workers and families impacted by the pandemic, and ensure that states and localities had the needed resources to keep communities safe. The first relief package, the CARES Act, included a provision I spearheaded to send direct cash payments to hardworking Americans. I also advocated for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and various other lending programs that kept businesses, farms, and nonprofits running, and protected millions of workers. When it was clear further relief was needed, I worked with a bipartisan group of Senators to craft the Bipartisan COVID-19 Relief Act of 2020, which provided more than $900 billion in emergency relief to American students, families, businesses, workers, and healthcare providers during the crisis.
American ingenuity brought us life-saving vaccines in record time. I supported efforts to ensure that we maintained strong intellectual property rights during efforts to quickly distribute vaccines around the world so that we can continue to rely on American manufacturers.
The FDA and NIH play a central role in the protection of public health. I introduced legislation with Senators Luján (D-NM) and Collins (R-ME), which passed the Senate, to help advance collaborative innovation between the nonprofit organizations that support these agencies’ public health missions.
I continue to press the Administration to step up its COVAX efforts with additional funding and donations of U.S.-made vaccines to support countries around the world struggling to gain control of the pandemic.