Congressman Bobby Rush

Representing the 1st District of Illinois

Rush, Committee on Energy and Commerce Consider Legislation to Lower Drug Costs and Expand Access to Healthcare for Seniors

Oct 17, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON  Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), as a senior member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, is considering several pieces of legislation to lower drug costs and expand access to health care for seniors.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a markup of the following bills: H.R. 3, the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019”; H.R. 4665, the “Medicare Vision Act of 2019”; H.R. 4671, the “Helping Seniors Afford Health Care Act”; H.R. 4618, the “Medicare Hearing Act of 2019”; and H.R. 4650, the “Medicare Dental Act of 2019”.

“I am excited not only about H.R. 3 — which will lower prescription drug costs for millions of Medicare beneficiaries — but also for the fact that today, we are considering bills that will expand services that have, for far too long, been overlooked by the Medicare program.  Specifically, coverage for seniors’ dental, vision, and hearing services and products, including preventive screenings, glasses, dentures, and hearing aids.

“Without coverage for these healthcare services and products, these necessities are often unaffordable for the seniors who need them the most. Today’s markup will ensure Medicare coverage for the products, services, and prescription drugs that seniors rely on.”

H.R. 3, the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019,” would, among other things, establish a fair price negotiation program and empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers for the prices of certain drugs that lack competition.  The bill would also establish a mandatory rebate for drug manufacturers of certain covered Part B and Part D drugs that increase in price faster than inflation.  In addition, H.R. 3 would make changes to the structure of the standard benefit design for Medicare Part D and create an out-of-pocket maximum for Part D enrollees.

H.R. 4665, the “Medicare Vision Act of 2019,” would among other things, add a vision benefit to the Medicare Part B program. The Medicare program currently only covers vision services related to certain eye diseases such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy.  H.R. 4665 seeks to fill this gap in coverage by providing Medicare beneficiaries with access to crucial vision services.

H.R. 4671, the “Helping Seniors Afford Health Care Act,” would, among other things, modify the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and increase the income eligibility levels for partial dual-eligible beneficiaries who receive financial assistance through MSP.  The MSP provides financial assistance for Medicare premiums and cost-sharing for eligible low-income adults over age 65 and adults with disabilities.

H.R. 4618, the “Medicare Hearing Act of 2019,” would, among other things, add a hearing benefit to Medicare Part B. The Medicare program currently covers hearing and balance exams but excludes coverage for most other hearing services and hearing aids.  H.R. 4618 would fill this gap by providing coverage for hearing aids for individuals with severe or profound hearing loss through Medicare’s competitive bidding program for orthotics and prosthetics.

H.R. 4650, the “Medicare Dental Act of 2019,” would, among other things, add a dental benefit to Medicare Part B. The Medicare program currently excludes coverage for most dental services such as preventive dental care, routine dental treatments, or dentures.  H.R. 4650 provides vital dental preventive and screening services, as well as coverage for basic (e.g. tooth extractions and oral disease management services) and major (e.g. root canals) treatment services. It also provides coverage for dentures through Medicare’s competitive bidding process for orthotics and prosthetics.