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Local delegates, residents, push for Congress to pass health care legislation during Protect Our Care bus stop

MORGANTOWN – Several local delegates and residents made a stand Wednesday morning for better health care – calling on federal lawmakers to approve health care measures included in the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill Congress will consider in September.

They aired their views when the Protect Our Care bus made a Morgantown stop as part of its national Lower Costs, Better Care tour. The bus has so far covered 8,600-plus miles with 36 stops in 19 states.

“Health care is a human right,” said Delegate John Williams, D-Monongalia. “That should be non-negotiable.”

The tour and the proposed measures have three aims, Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said: lower drug prices, close the gap for people paying high premiums and lower prescription prices for Medicare recipients by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices in the way U.S. Veterans Affairs already does.

Part of the Medicare legislation, she said, would also expand coverage to include dental, vision, hearing and mental health. “Isn’t it health care if you can’t hear,” she said. “Let’s get coverage above the neck.”

Fleischauer and Mindy Salango – a Morgantown resident, mom and Type 1 diabetes patient – both said insulin was invented a century ago, and the inventor sold the patent for $1 to keep the cost down, but drugmakers now make huge profits off of it

Salango said she pays $350 a month for insulin and supplies, and the cost was even higher before the state Legislature passed a bill two years ago capping insulin copays at $100. Additional bills last session to further lower copays and apply the caps to supplies failed.

Many people have access to care, she said, but can’t make use of it. People are rationing or simply not taking their expensive medications, and dying in the process. “We need to have access to affordable health care. That is key and that is critical. … It’s time for our federal government to take bold action.”

Delegate Evan Hansen talked about the insurance and big pharma lobbyists who influence lawmakers and said federal lawmakers should be focused on their constituents, not on corporate profits and lobbyist influence.

Health care advocate Laura Packard is riding the bus and spoke about the stage 4 cancer diagnosis she received in 2017. Affordable Care Act coverage saved her life. But high drug prices still took a toll, she said.

Her oncologist prescribed a drug, she said, to help her immune system recover faster from her chemotherapy. But it cost $13,000 so she passed on it and ended up in a hospital, and almost died.

Drug makers claim, she said, that lowering drug prices will hamper their research and development, but that drug was already formulated on taxpayer-subsidized R&D, and even if prices are lower, profits will remain hefty. “Nobody should be forced to make these choices in the richest country in the world.

Protect Our Care state coordinator Lynette Maselli mentioned Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito. Manchin, she said, voted with the other Democrats to pass budget measures that directs committees in September to craft the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill that will include climate change measures, child care and health care, among other items. And he is a cosponsor of the Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act.

Capito has opposed the social infrastructure bill and Maselli called on Capito to support it.

The Dominion Post contacted Capito to ask her about her support for the health care measures in particular, apart from the rest of the package.

She said in an email exchange, “The wish list items included in the $3.5 trillion reckless tax and spending spree haven’t even been debated here in Congress. Instead, Democrats are forgoing the committee process, regular order, and all basic logic to get their massive tax and spending bill passed that will further fuel President Biden’s inflation crisis and burden our grandchildren with debt for years to come.”

Speaking on background, her office said, “Sen. Capito is strongly opposed to the reconciliation process that the Democrats are pushing. We are only six months into the Biden administration, and we’ve already spent trillions of dollars. Sen. Capito feels strongly that this reckless tax and spending spree of the first six months of the Biden administration has been a major factor in fueling the inflation crisis – which is up 5.4% from the same time last year and has grown at the fastest pace since August 2008, prior to the worst part of the financial crisis.”

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