Valley Voices

Unaffordable costs damaging health care in America. That must change

At Norma Smith’s side in her journey through cancer is husband Rod, as they not only battle the disease, but pharmacy benefit managers, the “medical middlemen,” in trying to secure proper treatment as prescribed by her oncologist Dr. Ravi Rao.
At Norma Smith’s side in her journey through cancer is husband Rod, as they not only battle the disease, but pharmacy benefit managers, the “medical middlemen,” in trying to secure proper treatment as prescribed by her oncologist Dr. Ravi Rao. Fresno Bee file

Thanks for the recent reporting (The Bee, Aug. 4) and editorial (The Bee, Aug. 11) on Norma Smith and her struggles in securing life-saving medicine. I know these painful stories all too well. In my travels throughout the Central Valley, doctors tell me they worry about their patients’ ability to afford the best treatment available, diabetics describe rationing their insulin until their next paycheck clears, and hard-working families know that they’re one slippery step away from losing their life savings the next time they walk into an emergency room. We all know that our health care system — particularly prescription drugs — are way too expensive.

Mrs. Smith’s story illustrates just how devastating our system can be for people with serious illnesses. Health care is a right — or at least it should be — and any insurance plan ought to cover effective treatments. Unfortunately, and far too often, high drug prices and a dangerous lack of transparency, as described in your article, have put health care out of reach for many.

My focus in Congress has been on expanding health care access, especially bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. As an example, the House has passed the CREATES Act, which clears the way to get cheaper generic drugs to the market. In addition, we’ve passed the Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act, which prohibits “pay-for-delay.” Incredibly, big drug companies make backroom deals to pay other companies to not produce a generic version of their brand-named drugs. This bill will make that illegal.

tj cox
Rep. T.J. Cox, D-Fresno. Fresno Bee file Courtesy photo

Also, the recent bipartisan bill I’ve sponsored, Stopping the Pharmaceutical Industry from Keeping drugs Expensive (SPIKE) Act, is a nationwide version of our California law that forces drug companies to justify price spikes.

The fact is, lowering the cost of life-saving medicine is not a partisan issue — it’s a people issue — and people like Norma deserve the drugs that their physicians prescribe for them. In the coming months, I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop and pass legislation that makes our system more transparent and improves healt hcare access.

The door to my office is always open and I invite my constituents to call, write, and visit my offices in Selma, Bakersfield, and Washington, D.C.

Rep. TJ Cox, D-Fresno, represents the 21st District in the House of Representatives.

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