HENRICO, V.A. – Earlier this week, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger concluded her two-day healthcare tour across Central Virginia.
During her nine-stop tour, Spanberger met with local patients, healthcare professionals, providers, and community leaders to learn more about the health and wellness challenges facing families and seniors across Virginia’s Seventh District. Spanberger’s tour included stops at several free community clinics, mental health facilities, the Fredericksburg Veterans Affairs (VA) Clinic, an Enroll Virginia open enrollment sign-up event, and healthcare-focused businesses.
To close the tour, Spanberger also hosted a community forum in Henrico County alongside AARP Virginia to discuss high prescription drug prices in Central Virginia. Last month, the U.S. House voted 403 to 0 to pass her bipartisan legislation to help tackle the prescription drug affordability crisis and hold pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) accountable. In addition, she recently introduced a bipartisan bill to stop harmful practices that block new generic alternatives from entering the consumer market.
“Across our district—from Chesterfield to Culpeper, rising healthcare costs continue to be a top concern for my constituents. To help inform my work in Congress, I consistently need to gather information about the healthcare challenges facing Central Virginia patients, providers, and local officials on the ground,” said Spanberger. “During my healthcare tour, I met with community members who are dedicated to lending a hand to their neighbors, and I heard from patients who are concerned about rising treatment costs and drug prices. I had the opportunity to tour free clinics, meet incredibly dedicated volunteers and medical staff, and learn about the community-focused operations of our area’s healthcare businesses. And at our prescription drug forum in Henrico, I heard a familiar refrain—prescription drug costs are far too high, and they’re seriously jeopardizing the financial security of our seniors. The tremendous amount of feedback from this week’s healthcare tour will no doubt jumpstart much of my future work on issues of healthcare access and affordability—and I remain firmly committed to lowering healthcare costs, increasing competition in the prescription drug marketplace, and protecting coverage for Central Virginia families, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions.”
“With over 300,000 Virginians remaining uninsured after Medicaid expansion, the role of Virginia’s network of free and charitable clinics has never been more critical. While working hard to help a number of their traditional patients transition to coverage under Medicaid expansion, free clinics are evolving to meet the needs of those without healthcare options by filling remaining gaps in our healthcare system and protecting hardworking families from healthcare crises,” said Rufus Phillips, CEO, Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. “We are impressed with Representative Spanberger’s dedication to the health and wellbeing of her constituents and greatly appreciate that she’s made free clinics, one of the last true safeguards protecting vulnerable Virginians, a priority on her district-wide healthcare tour.”
“Too many Virginians—of all ages—have a hard time keeping up with the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs,” said Jim Dau, State Director, AARP Virginia. “There is an opportunity and an urgency for Congress to make prescription drugs more affordable, and I thank Representative Spanberger for her leadership.”
On Monday, Spanberger started her healthcare tour at East Coast Elite Chiropractic in Blackstone, where she learned more about Dr. Taylor Myers’ cutting-edge treatment technology, preventive treatment methods, and work to prevent opioid addiction for those with chronic pain. She then toured the Free Clinic of Powhatan and met with volunteers, staff, and Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics leadership. Following her discussion in Powhatan, Spanberger met with staff and patients at Chesterfield Mental Health Support Services, and she also toured the organization’s Galloway Place facility and saw firsthand its offerings for Central Virginians with intellectual disabilities. Spanberger ended the first day of her tour in Chesterfield at an Enroll Virginia open enrollment event, where she thanked staff and volunteers for making sure Central Virginia families can sign up for or alter their health insurance plans ahead of the open enrollment deadline on December 15.
On Tuesday, Spanberger began her day at the Fredericksburg VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, which provides primary care and referrals to many Seventh District veterans. During this stop, she met with doctors, nurses, administrators, and McGuire VA Medical Center leadership to discuss the progress of MISSION Act implementation, the need for strengthened mental health resources, and an increasing demand for telehealth services in Central Virginia. Spanberger then travelled to the Free Clinic of Culpeper, where she met with staff and volunteers to learn more about the Clinic’s community-centered initiatives and its free medical and prescription services offered to Culpeper working families. Additionally, she visited the Orange County Free Clinic to meet with community members, volunteers, and staff and to discuss some of the challenges the Orange community is facing in rural healthcare delivery and amid rising prescription drug costs. Spanberger then toured Pink Ribbon Boutique in Henrico County, which specializes in clothing, bras, and accessories for area patients experiencing all stages of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
At the end of the second day of her nine-stop healthcare tour, Spanberger hosted a community forum alongside AARP Virginia. During the forum, she heard from Henrico County residents about the impacts of high prescription drug costs and discussed her recent work in the U.S. House to help lower drug prices and increase transparency in the drug supply chain.
Spanberger’s prescription drug forum in Henrico builds on her work in the U.S. House to address the prescription drug affordability crisis, spur competition in the prescription drug industry, and increase transparency in drug pricing, including:
- Stopping practices that block generic alternatives from entering the consumer market. Last month, Spanberger introduced the bipartisan Biologic Patent Transparency Act, which would take a first step in stopping the practice of “patent gaming” and would seek to level the playing field for biosimilar drugs.
- Giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices. In January 2019, she helped introduce the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, which would authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical providers within Medicare Part D to help lower costs.
- Hearing directly from Central Virginians about their prescription drug-related challenges. In August 2019, Spanberger held a prescription drug roundtable in Henrico County with local families, providers, and pharmacists to focus on the economic and healthcare issues caused by overpriced prescription drugs. During the discussion, she heard concerns from patients and pharmacists about the influence of PBMs on the prescription drug marketplace.
- Addressing additional factors that impact the prices of prescription drugs. Earlier this year, Spanberger helped introduce and pass landmark campaign finance and ethics reform legislation that would strengthen transparency in the U.S. political system and limit the influence of special interests—including pharmaceutical companies. During a press conference prior to the passage of the legislation, she shared the story of Central Virginians concerned about rising prescription drug prices—and she stressed why increased transparency would restore faith in the democratic process and the ability of Members of Congress to effect change on these issues. Click here to watch the full press conference.