Improving Health Care
Gary has consistently fought to make quality healthcare more affordable and accessible to Michiganders and worked to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Since his first term in Congress where he cast his vote for the Affordable Care Act, Gary has worked to not only protect and improve this law, but he has also taken action to address cost, supply, and security threats to affordable prescription drugs, level the playing field for generics, and expand access to opioid treatment for adolescents.
Expanding Access to Quality Healthcare
During his first term in Congress, Gary voted to enact the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which helped drastically cut Michigan’s uninsured rate. The ACA substantially improved consumer protections by ending preexisting condition discrimination and preventing insurance companies from setting lifetime limits or dropping consumers’ coverage when they get sick. It also expanded affordability and access by preventing insurance companies from charging older Americans and women more for healthcare and by allowing young people to remain on their parents’ health plans until age 26.
Gary recognizes that the ACA is not perfect and he has supported bipartisan, commonsense efforts to fix portions of the healthcare law so it works better for Michigan families and businesses. However, he also knows that the ACA has helped half a million Michiganders access health insurance and has provided vital protections to 1.7 people across the state with preexisting health conditions. He has worked hard to defend the ACA from numerous attacks. Gary voted against efforts to repeal the ACA in July 2017 and he spoke out several times against these proposals on the Senate floor. He has also vigorously opposed the Trump Administration’s efforts to repeal the ACA through the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas and vowed to continue fighting to ensure we do not return to the days when insurance companies could discriminate against people with preexisting health conditions, charge them more or impose annual of lifetime limits on coverage.
Addressing Cost, Supply, and Security Threats to Affordable Prescription Drugs
Through his role as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gary unveiled a report in December 2019 on skyrocketing prescription drug prices, drug shortages, and related national security concerns. In a warning before the Coronavirus pandemic, Gary’s report concluded that drug pricing, shortages, and sourcing 80 percent of the active ingredients for American pharmaceuticals from foreign sources-- predominately China and India--have contributed to a growing public health threat. To address these pressing challenges, Gary recommended a comprehensive approach building on commonsense recommendations, including: prohibiting unjustified price increases from pharmaceutical companies; allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices; and providing incentives for pharmaceutical companies that bring manufacturing for certain critical drugs back to the U.S.
In May 2020, Gary introduced legislation to help reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign drug and medical supply manufacturers and encourage investments to produce more of those critical medications and supplies in the United States and Michigan. He has also pressed the Administration to get ahead of other potential shortages that could hinder response to the Coronavirus pandemic, including urging the federal government to acquire or manufacture a sufficient supply of needles and syringes that will be needed to vaccinate Americans.
Leveling the Playing Field for Generics
Gary helped pass and enact two bipartisan bills to improve access to generics as part of the larger 2020 funding package. The first, the Affordable Insulin Approvals Now Act, will bring cheaper version of insulin to market more quickly through a fix to the FDA review process. With an over 600 percent price increase over the past 15 years, unaffordable insulin has impacted nearly 7.5 million Americans—including Michiganders with diabetes, who depend on daily insulin treatments to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. The second, the CREATES Act, will prevent drug companies from blocking the development of generics by denying access to samples of the branded product and impeding generics’ ability to participate in the safety protocol around distribution.
Expanding Access to Opioid Treatment for Adolescents
Gary introduced and helped pass into law provisions based on his bipartisan YOUTH Act with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to expand access to safe, effective treatment for adolescents and young adults struggling with opioid addiction. The provisions, which were included as part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act signed into law in October 2018, expanded an existing youth substance use disorder program to include young adults. It also helped support the identification of best practices for overcoming barriers to medication assisted treatment (MAT) for young people.