June 18, 2018

Senator Hassan Discusses Need to Lower Prescription Drug Prices and Preserve Protections for Pre-existing Conditions


Senator Hassan with participants at today’s roundtable discussion at Cashin Senior Center in Manchester

MANCHESTER – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan hosted a roundtable discussion at the Cashin Senior Center about the need to preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions and to take action to lower the cost of prescription drugs. She was joined by Dr. Jeffrey A. Cohen of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, Todd Fahey of AARP, and Granite Staters who shared their stories about the need to tackle these important health care priorities.

Last week, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, Senator Hassan called out the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, 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.

See below for highlights from the discussion:

“Affordable health coverage is critical to the freedom, dignity, and well-being of our citizens and also to the strength of our economy,” Senator Hassan said.  “I hear all the time from seniors and families around New Hampshire that high drug cost are forcing them to make truly agonizing decisions. Do you put food on your table or do you fill a prescription that could improve, or in some cases, even save a life? I am focused on taking real action to lower health care costs, particularly with regard to prescription drugs. I am going to continue to stand against partisan attacks on Granite Staters and Americans’ health care, and will work with anyone who is focused on lowering health care costs.” 

“I see these very hard choices for my patients, and it really is heart-rending,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Cohen, speaking on the rising cost of prescription drugs. “On a personal level, this is something that every day I appreciate; the real difficulties that my patients experience. Something has to be done about this. I'm not a policy person, but there are areas, like [taking away] pre-existing conditions, that would just have a catastrophic effect on my patients...So I think we're really facing a crisis and I’m wondering when the tipping point will occur when people realize action needs to be taken.”

“I have two sons, my youngest has a genetic condition,” said Vanessa Gregoire, on her son’s health care costs. “It causes him to have hearing loss, speech apraxia, and asthma. Just his inhalers alone is something we have to budget for monthly. We are a typical, working family, we don't make tons of money...We do have to sometimes decide, OK, we can only put a little bit of gas in the car because we need to be able to afford his inhaler this week. We have to limit what we can do and how we live our lives just to be able to afford medication.”

"This is a health matter, this is not something we can dismiss" said Deborah Opramella, on discussing her family’s decision to prioritize their health. "On top of the medicine that my husband takes for his heath right now, and for the diabetes medicine that I take, we spend about $400 a month in medications alone. My husband has a great job, I have a good job, I can’t imagine another family doing what we're doing.”