A package of bills that passed the House earlier this week could help address prescription drug costs and make it easier for people to enroll for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos said Friday.
The legislation cracks down on methods drug companies use to keep generic versions from coming to market, the Moline Democrat said.
She described a process colloquially called "pay for delay" in which pharmaceutical companies do that, which would be forbidden under the legislation if it is approved by the Senate and signed into law.
"Pharmaceutical companies would pay these generic companies to keep the generic brand from advancing so patients and families would have to keep paying more," she said in a phone interview from Capitol Hill.
Bustos said that consumers can see the price of drugs drop by half in the first year when generic alternatives come to market.
The legislation would also appropriate $200 million to aid states in creating their own, state-based insurance marketplaces, and would help restore funding for the outreach efforts encouraging people to sign up for care under the ACA. That funding was reduced last year, and Democrats say some 1 million people did not enroll for the program.
Restoring funding could help get 500,000 people back on the rolls, she said, also noting that health care costs are one of the first issues that come up when she talks with constituents.
The vote on the legislation was bipartisan, though only nominally, with a handful of Republicans backing it.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood was cool to it, saying that he felt there was broader agreement on compromise measures to reduce drug costs, but that Democrats added on additional riders that made the bill unpalatable to the GOP.
"It's disappointing to hear the rhetoric of wanting to work in a bipartisan way, but when it actually came to doing it ... it's extremely frustrating," he said Friday evening in Peoria.
The legislation is HR 987.