Access to quality, affordable health care is one of the biggest challenges facing our country. When I speak with constituents, it is one of the first issues we discuss. High health care costs keep us from going to the doctor or filling prescriptions and are forcing members of our community to have to choose between proper medical care or putting food on the table for their families. And right now, Americans’ health care is under attack by the Trump Administration.
Over the last two years, the Trump Administration has attempted to undermine and weaken existing protections that make health care more accessible to everyone. An important example of one of these programs the President wants to dismantle is the 340B drug pricing program. This program is one of the most important sources of affordable, critical care for the residents of South Florida.
The 340B drug pricing program gives our nation’s safety net of hospitals, health centers, and clinics access to discounted prescription drugs to treat cancer, diabetes, HIV, and other illnesses that disproportionately affect our community. The savings these hospitals receive from the program go toward free or discounted care – including drugs – for people who can’t afford their medical bills. Those savings also enable hospitals to offer crucial services to our community that might not be available anywhere else in the area.
340B hospitals include institutions, like West Kendall Baptist Hospital, that serve a high percentage of patients who are uninsured, underinsured, or rely on programs such as Medicaid. West Kendall Baptist qualifies for the program based on the large number of patients in need who turn to them for affordable health services. Another 340B hospital is Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, situated in the Middle Keys, which can receive these vital drug discounts because it is designated as a critical access hospital.
The fact that the 340B program can help hospitals at nearly opposite ends of our district that serve two very different communities is a testament to the great success of the 340B program. The savings may be passed onto patients in the form of free prescriptions to those living with low incomes. Or they may go toward funding specialized oncology care in towns where the next-closest provider is hours away. Or they might help a financially-struggling hospital in a rural community keep its doors open to the community. The 340B program allows each hospital to direct the savings towards areas and services that the communities need because they know what the needs are.
The Trump Administration recently proposed continuing deep Medicare drug payment cuts to many 340B hospitals into next year. Attacks on these programs that help families access the health care they need—cuts to Medicare, their legal battle to undo the Affordable Care Act—are exactly the wrong approach if the goal is to make medications and health care services more affordable and accessible to patients who desperately need them. I see how important programs like 340B and every other initiative to lower health care costs are to patients in South Florida and nationwide. If the President gets his way, these programs will no longer exist, making it nearly impossible for many South Florida families to get the care they need. By continuing to slash what Medicare pays for drugs at safety net hospitals and attacking the Affordable Care Act, President Trump is keeping low-income and rural patients from receiving the health care that could keep them alive.
That is why I am doing everything I can to stand up to President Trump's attacks on affordable care and pass bipartisan legislation to improve health care access and affordability across South Florida. In the House, we’ve passed legislation to eliminate “junk insurance” plans that don’t cover a wide range of health services and often don’t cover preexisting conditions. We passed legislation to ensure patients with preexisting conditions cannot be discriminated against in the health care system. We passed a compilation of bills that will take steps to lower the cost of prescription drug prices. And we’ve thrown the full force of the House’s legal team to fight against the Trump Administration’s continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
I will continue to stand up for programs, like 340B, that are proven to lower costs and help patients who need the most help. Fighting for lower health care costs and accessible care for South Florida is why I was elected, and that fight is not over until every member of our community has proper health care.
Rep. Mucarsel-Powel (D) represents FL-26