Prior to representing the great people of East Tennessee in Congress, I served for 30+ years as a licensed community pharmacist. Healthcare issues and solving patient problems are near and dear to me.
As a member of the House Republican Doctors Caucus, I understand the importance of reducing health care costs and increasing access to care. And I know how Obamacare has wreaked havoc on our healthcare system, driving up costs, making the system more complex and confusing, and empowering bureaucrats and insurance companies over patients. Our current healthcare system is deeply flawed, forcing folks into insurance plans that don’t fit their needs and away from doctors they trust.
Unlike the government-run overreach of Obamacare, I believe in personalized medicine as part of a reformed and modernized healthcare system, one where patients and healthcare providers have more ownership and control over their own healthcare dollars and decisions. This sort of modernized healthcare system should include:
- Common-sense patient protections;
- Competition and consumer choices;
- Price and quality transparency;
- Rooting out waste, fraud and abuse; and
- Incentives to lower or restrain costs while improving quality, access and innovation.
Guided by these principles, I am taking an active role in developing and supporting meaningful legislation that will make a difference for individuals, families, patients and providers in East Tennessee.
Reducing Drug Prices
With my pharmacy background, I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance common-sense proposals to bring down the high prices of prescription drugs, including the price of insulin. We can do this while also ensuring America’s biopharmaceutical companies can continue to innovate and bring to market new and innovative medicines. These efforts should include speeding up the availability of lower-cost generic drugs for consumers.
The first bill I introduced in the 117th Congress is the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Accountability Study Act (H.R. 1829). This important legislation would require a study on the role of PBMs and recommend ways to improve their operational efficiency and lower costs in pharmaceutical supply chains. PBM reforms are one critical component toward lowering the costs of prescription drugs for Americans and ensuring pharmacists can best meet the needs of patients.
With so many rural areas in East Tennessee, I am proud to have joined the House Rural Health Care Coalition. In this role I will continue to be a strong advocate for legislation that gives rural hospitals and clinics the support they need and increases access to the care they provide. Ensuring access to providers including doctors, nurses, PAs, rural labs, home health agencies, ambulances, rural outpatient hospitals and other rural providers is vital to the long-term sustainability of rural communities. We also need to continue to strengthen public-private partnerships and programs that incentivize doctors and other medical professionals to live and work in their local community and underserved areas.
A related issue for rural communities and healthcare access is the availability of telehealth or telemedicine, built on strong investments in broadband. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown more and more folks don’t need to travel to a doctor’s office for each medical concern – it can be much more convenient to use your phone or computer and check in with your care team through a virtual visit or secure message. Expanding the availability of telehealth services will help ensure folks in rural areas have greater access to medical care without having to travel across the county or state to get it. We need to ensure that more people have access to telehealth technologies and broadband internet to make sure folks are not left behind.
Opioids / Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Knowing the devastating toll that opioids and other substance abuse has taken on so many individuals and families in East Tennessee and across the country, I welcomed the opportunity to join the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force. This new Task Force is aimed at developing and supporting national policies to address addiction to any substance and to recognize the interconnectedness of addiction and mental health.
Regarding the ongoing fight to combat opioids, I have met and spoken with many medical professionals and law enforcement officers in East Tennessee and share their concerns that drug-related overdoses, especially those attributed to opioids and fentanyl, continue to surge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that fentanyl overdose deaths rose nearly 40 percent from May, 2019 — May, 2020, the largest spike of any drug. This deadly, synthetic drug is devastating individuals and families across the country.
China remains a key source of supply for fentanyl precursor chemicals that Mexican cartels use to produce large amounts of fentanyl that they are smuggling into the United States. This is why I joined as a cosponsor to the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act (H.R. 2209), legislation that would make permanent the classification of fentanyl and its analogues as a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Medicare has secured and made more affordable important access to healthcare for generations of American workers and their families. I support preserving and protecting benefits for current and near-term retirees, but due in large part to changing demographics, Americans living longer and the continued rise in health care costs, Medicare faces a sizable gap between scheduled benefits and the revenues needed to fund them. These are challenges where economic and healthcare policy experts agree that the sooner we take actions to address them, the more manageable will be the solutions.
There’s work to be done to modernize the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit in fiscally responsible ways, to make it more affordable for seniors and lower beneficiary cost sharing on some of the most expensive prescription drugs. We also need to consider Medicare reforms aimed at promoting choice, competition, and the role of market prices, which are key elements of the popular and successful Medicare Advantage (Part C) program. This can include liberating telemedicine and accountable care organizations (ACOs), ending payment incentives that are driving doctors to become hospital employees, promoting hospital price transparency, reducing regulatory paperwork, and creating more transparency in the market for prescription drugs.
Tennessee officials know the needs of its residents better than any bureaucrat in Washington ever could, and so I strongly support Tennessee’s innovative section 1115 demonstration, known as “TennCare III,” announced in January, 2021. This new model builds on Tennessee’s history of effective management of its Medicaid program and provides opportunities for additional federal funding for the purpose of improving the health of TennCare members and communities throughout the state. In providing Tennessee with greater ability to run and operate its own Medicaid program through additional flexibilities, TennCare III takes a fresh, new approach to deliver and manage healthcare with clear accountability, beneficiary protections, and more appropriate financial incentives. This means Tennessee will be able to deliver better outcomes for beneficiaries and value for taxpayers.
For more information concerning work and views related to healthcare, please contact our office.