June 13, 2018

Senator Maggie Hassan Grills HHS Secretary Azar on Trump Administration’s Efforts to Gut Protections for Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions While Claiming Commitment to Lowering Cost of Prescription Drugs

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, Senator Maggie Hassan, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, yesterday grilled Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a Committee hearing, calling him out for claiming that the Trump Administration is concerned about lowering prescription drug prices while also seeking to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which would lead many Americans to lose health insurance coverage and, in turn, force them to pay more for prescription drugs.

Senator Hassan’s questioning comes following the Trump Administration’s latest attempt to sabotage health care for hard-working Granite Staters and Americans by refusing to defend a federal law and instead side with a number of Republican state Attorneys General in a partisan lawsuit aimed at undermining the Affordable Care Act.

See below for highlights of coverage from the hearing:

From New York Times

WASHINGTON — Democratic senators blistered President Trump’s health secretary on Tuesday, telling him that the Trump administration’s efforts to undo health insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions made a mockery of the president’s campaign to rein in prescription drug prices.

…The heated exchanges came just days after the Justice Department told a Federal District Court in Texas that it would no longer defend crucial provisions of the Affordable Care Act that protect consumers with pre-existing medical conditions.

The senators told Mr. Azar that the effort to lower drug prices and the push to end protections for people with pre-existing conditions contradicted each other. If a federal court accepts the administration’s argument on pre-existing conditions, they said, tens of millions of people with such conditions could lose access to affordable insurance that includes coverage for prescription medicines.

“This is like some kind of sick joke,” said Senator Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire.

From Washington Post

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers Tuesday that he wants to preserve access to affordable insurance for Americans with preexisting medical conditions, but he declined to disclose his view of an administration move that could undercut such consumer protections.

…During a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that was mainly about the president’s blueprint to address drug prices, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) told Azar that Justice’s legal position is “like some kind of a sick joke.” The administration argues that the ACA’s individual mandate, requiring most people to carry health insurance, will become unconstitutional next year — and, with it, the law’s insurance protections for consumers.

“Will you encourage the Trump administration to change its position?” Hassan challenged Azar, a lawyer and former HHS general counsel.

He replied that “we do believe in finding solutions on the matter of preexisting conditions and the matter of affordability, regardless of the litigation.”

From CNN

The secretary of Health and Human Services was grilled on Capitol Hill about prescription drugs Tuesday.

This comes about a month after President Trump announced an effort to reduce drug costs for all Americans.

The Trump administration wants drug companies to include list prices in TV ads.

But Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire said TV drug ads are inherently problematic because drug companies get tax breaks for them.

"To me, this is a basic fairness issue. We shouldn't be giving tax breaks on the billions of dollars they spend on advertising - advertising that hikes up costs for consumers," Hassan said. 

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