House Dems Would Force Vote On Bill For More Low-Cost Drugs
Democrats in the House of Representatives are trying to force Republicans who control the house to schedule a vote on a bill that would speed up the approval and marketing of generic drugs, which are cheaper than brand name drugs and would help reduce drug prescription costs.
Congressmember Nita Lowey (D-Queens/Westchester), explaining her support for the Dems’ strategy move, said:
"Republicans continue to cater to the pharmaceutical companies, which put their own profits above the needs of Americans. Democrats want to provide accessible and quality health care, including affordable and prescription drugs, to every American family. It is time for Republicans in Congress to put families first, ahead of special interests."
The United States Senate has already passed the same bill, which was authored by Senators Charles Schumer of New York, a Democrat and John McCain of Arizona and Sunan Collins of Maine, both Republicans. All three have endorsed the House Democrats’ effort to force a vote on the bill.
House Republican leaders oppose the bill, saying it would weaken the patent rights of major drug companies that develop new drugs. Also, they say they have already passed a bill to help Medicare members bring down their drug costs. The bill adds drug prescription benefits to Medicare. It failed to pass the Senate.
In order to force a vote on the generic drug bill, the Democrats need the signatures of 218 House members, half the members of the House, on a petition requesting that the bill be brought up for a vote. The Republicans hold a small majority in the House, so some of their members would have to defy their leaders and join the Democrats to get the petition passed. This is difficult to do.
Under the bill in question, the major drug companies would lose some of the legal powers they have to prevent their products from becoming generics. They would lose about $6 billion a year over a 10-year period if the bill passes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Democrats are being supported by both employer and labor groups, consumer and senior advocates and insurance companies, all of which are victims of high drug prices.
BILL MAKES FERRIES ACCESSIBLE TO DISABLED, SENIORS: Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has endorsed a bill to make public passenger ferries more accessible to the disabled and to seniors. Gotbaum said the bill would remedy a serious problem that affects both disabled New Yorkers and disabled tourists. It will also help seniors with reduced mobility.
Gotbaum said her office is committed to working on behalf of seniors and the disabled and has already been cooperating in efforts to improve the Access-A-Ride program in the city.
Under the proposed bill, the city would be required to set standards to make ferries accessible to the disabled. Currently there is no uniformity in access to piers and vessels for persons with mobility and other impairments, Gotbaum said.
MARSHALL AT NEW SENIORS’ HOUSING DEDICATION: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall was on hand last Wednesday at ceremonies dedicating a new seniors’ residence in Flushing built by Selfhelp Community Services, one of the major senior advocacy and service groups in New York City.
The new $6.5 million Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Apartments at 45-35 Kissena Blvd. is Selfhelp’s sixth senior residence in Queens. It houses 100 seniors in 70 units and was constructed under the Section 202 program of the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency. The Weinberg Foundation provided an additional $1.7 million for amenities, including landscaping and artwork.
MEETING: AARP Chapter No. 2889 meets next Wednesday, October 2, at 12:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, 54-05 Seabury St., Elmhurst.