WASHINGTON, DC - Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) spoke today on the House floor in favor of H.R. 4. Below are his remarks, as prepared for delivery.
"Mr. Speaker, before I discuss this legislation, H.R. 4, I would like to take a moment to congratulate the members of the People’s House on a very productive week.
"This week, we worked to make America safer, passing bipartisan legislation that implements 9/11 Commission recommendations. We worked to make our economy fairer, passing bipartisan legislation that raises the federal minimum wage. And, we worked to improve health care for all Americans, passing bipartisan legislation that promotes embryonic stem cell research.
"We are keeping our pledge to the American people to lead, govern effectively and get results. Today, we consider H.R. 4, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act – bipartisan legislation aimed at cutting prescription drug prices for millions of seniors and individuals with disabilities.
"This legislation repeals a misguided provision in current law that explicitly prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from entering into negotiations with drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs for the 43 million beneficiaries of Medicare.
"H.R. 4 requires the Secretary to conduct such negotiations, but gives the Secretary broad discretion on how to most effectively implement negotiating authority to achieve the greatest discounts.
"The bill also permits Medicare Part D drug plans to obtain discounts or lower prices below those negotiated by the Secretary. As the New York Times observes today in an editorial, the bill “is sufficiently flexible to allow older Americans to benefit from the best efforts of both government and the private drugs plans.”
"Mr. Speaker, this legislation has the overwhelming support of the American people – many of whom have experienced, first hand, the rising costs of prescription drugs. In fact, a recent Newsweek poll indicated that 92 percent of Americans favor granting HHS this negotiating authority.
"In my view, this legislation is a common-sense effort to do right by the 43 million Americans enrolled in Medicare. It removes an unnecessary prohibition on prescription drug negotiation that should not have been enacted in the first place and allows the Secretary to do what he was hired to do – to put the interests of the American people first.
"As Chairmen Dingell and Rangel have observed, this bill is a very important first step in making prescription drugs more affordable. In this 110th Congress, we also must commit ourselves to addressing the affordability of and accessibility to health care."