Lankford Presses HHS Secretary on Drug Prices and Missing Migrant Children
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today questioned Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra in a Senate Finance Committee hearing to discuss President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal as it relates to HHS. Lankford pointedly asked Becerra what is being done about pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) as they continue to push to keep their status as middlemen in the drug pricing scheme, which is forcing higher prices at the pharmacy counter for Oklahomans. Lankford also asked about the status of efforts to place generic drugs on the proper drug price “tier” instead of what is happening now where generics are sometimes placed on the same drug pricing tier as name-brand drugs – increasing cost-sharing requirements for patients.
Lankford also questioned Becerra on a New York Times statistic that supposedly 85,000 unaccompanied minor children have been lost by HHS because they can no longer make contact with them in the sponsored home.
Lankford continues to lead the Senate in his crusade against high prescription drug prices, and Lankford is the lead Republican on the border Subcommittee in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
On what’s being done to stop drug-price middlemen from driving up drug prices
Lankford: You talk a lot about drug policy, but there’s nothing about PBMs in some of the proposals in your budget piece. Now, CMS, we’ve worked with them directly on it, and I want to talk to you about some of that as well. But for the PBMs in particular, they’re not even mentioned once. What’s the plan at this point on dealing with drug pricing and the PBMs?
Becerra: It may not be as directly included in the budget, but the Administration is working on PBMs because we know more and more there is a growing concern that the middlemen in the process of getting drugs from a manufacturer to patient are skimming off a good deal of the money that’s being generated…
On drug price tiering
Lankford: This issue of tiering is becoming more and more important where the drug will be released out. There’s a generic drug that is then released out later in competition, but it’s—according to the PBMs and the manufacturer—it’s put on a branded tier, meaning that the patient at the pharmacy counter is paying a more expensive rate rather than the generic rate for their pharmaceutical, and it also becomes an issue for Medicare as well. That’s not an issue that you brought up on this, but it’s a really big issue that we need to be able to address this whole issue of tiering of where a new generic drug comes out whether they’re a branded tier.
On the New York Times statistic that 85,000 migrant kids known as “unaccompanied minors” are missing but are supposed to be tracked by HHS once they are placed in sponsorship
Lankford: The Times actually identified that there is a stat that’s 85,000 children that HHS lost immediate contact with them once they were placed in sponsorship. So that’s my first question. Is that number accurate? Because once HHS does the vetting and places them with sponsors, the next question is, do you know where they are even for those first 30 days? And then when you get to day 31, do we know where they are? And if I can push this a little farther, if they don’t show up for their first hearing is someone from HHS checking on them because at that point they’re lost.
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