Notes From The Capital: May 2019

Continuing the Fight to Lower Prescription Drug Prices 
I’m working to tackle skyrocketing prescription drug prices because we are at a crisis point. Thousands of people are rationing their life-saving medication because they are struggling to afford them. Patients with health insurance are facing higher out-of-pocket costs, and seniors on a fixed income are being forced to choose between paying for groceries and paying for medicine. In the wealthiest country in the world, that is unacceptable.

This month I fought to get a number of measures I championed included in a larger bipartisan Senate health care package to address rising health care costs. This includes my bipartisan bill with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to bring lower-cost, generic insulin products to market sooner rather than later. It also includes my bill with Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas to put a stop to drug companies making slight changes to drug formulations—sometimes as minimal as adding salt to a drug—so that they can extend monopolies. This is a practice known as “evergreening” and I want to put a stop to it.

I also reintroduced my bipartisan bill with Senator Cassidy that would put the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on a path to reduce unnecessary costs and administrative burdens across Medicare, Medicaid, and the private health insurance market by 50 percent over the next 10 years. A small hospital in Minnesota shared that it has over 400 different insurance contracts. Hospitals like this have to hire extra staff to go through mountains of paperwork and guess who ends up paying for it? Patients.

In the coming weeks, I will be reintroducing my Affordable Medications Act, a solution that targets multiple causes of high prescription drug prices. I urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up votes on drug pricing bills making their way through the House right now. Patients can’t wait any longer.

Learn more herehere, and here.

Working to Improve Access to Mental Health Care 
This month I shared my experience with depression first in my late teens, and then again in my thirties. Really, it’s the story of millions of Americans. But I chose to share mine, first in an op-ed in the Rochester Post Bulletin, then on the floor of the Senate, and now here, because I want to urge anyone who struggles with depression—or anxiety, or substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other mental health issue—to reach out and seek help.

And I believe that everyone should have the same access to mental health care, regardless of insurance, zip code, or age. Yet too many people can’t get the help they need, and that includes students. So I’ve introduced a bill to bring comprehensive mental health services into schools. My bill would also train teachers, families, and community members to recognize when a student is experiencing a mental health crisis. And, as we take up the Older Americans Act this year, I’ll focus on what we can do to help older adults deal with the social isolation they feel in their later years.

This month I also teamed up with Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips to boost access to mental health services for kids and families who’ve experienced child abuse and neglect. If we don’t address the trauma that some children and families go through, the cycle continues through adulthood and onto future generations. 

We are making progress on the path toward true mental health parity, but we still have work to do to finish the job and to ensure all Minnesotans, and all Americans, have complete coverage for mental health services. So, I ask you to join with me. Speak out. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health challenges, don’t let anything get in the way of getting help.

Learn more here

Introducing a Solution to Fight Climate Change 
Climate change is the existential challenge of our time, and the United States can either lead or follow when it comes to our clean energy future. I think that we should lead. It’s going to be good for jobs, good for our climate, good for our environment, and good for our economy.

This month I introduced legislation to dramatically expand clean electricity, and put the United States on a path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the electric sector by the middle of the century, including a nearly 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2035 compared to 2005. My bill lets every state start with where they are, but then asks them to improve from there. We have to build on what is being shown to work by state action, and we should follow the lead of our local utilities that are moving towards clean energy. What’s more, my bill could lower energy costs, expand jobs, and opportunity.

We need to work together to find solutions to the climate crisis, which will shape the world our children and grandchildren will live in. I’m grateful for the Senators who already support my bill, and my bill has also earned endorsement from labor unions, utilities, and environmental leaders. I’m going to work hard to push this bill forward.

Learn more here and here

Cracking Down on RoboCalls 
Ever received a robocall? Maybe you even got one today. That wouldn’t surprise me. 4.9 billion robocalls were made last month alone. This ambush of harassing, invasive calls shows that we must do more to make sure our laws appropriately protect consumers.

I am a cosponsor of anti-robocall legislation and am glad that it cleared the Senate this month. The bill aims to curtail robocalls by increasing penalties against telemarketers who spam Americans. It will also promote call authentication and blocking technologies to help consumers avoid the calls.

By strengthening the government’s ability to bring enforcement action against abusive robocallers and directing voice providers to implement technology that screen for robocalls in advance, we are doing our part to put a dent in telemarketing fraud. I’m going to be looking at more solutions to take on these spam callers.

Learn more here.