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Lankford Pushes to Expand Healthcare Access for Rural Oklahomans

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s Q&A on YouTube.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in Senate Finance Committee Hearing entitled “Hacking America’s Health Care: Assessing the Change Healthcare Cyber Attack and What’s Next,” with Chief Executive Officer of UnitedHealth Group Andrew Witty testifying. Lankford explained many of the challenges that Oklahomans face and called for solutions to expand healthcare access in rural areas.

Lankford has worked for years to improve healthcare access and pursue workable solutions to lower prescription drug costs. He recently called on Senate leadership to reform Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) in an effort to reduce the cost of prescription medications. He urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to complete its investigation into PBMs, the healthcare industry’s most powerful prescription drug middlemen.

Lankford introduced the Ensuring Access to Lower-Cost Medicines for Seniors Act which would ensure that patients can benefit from lower-cost prescription drug products instead of being forced to pay for higher-priced drugs solely because of pricing gimmicks used by PBMs, the drug pricing middlemen. Lankford proudly supported two health packages voted favorability out of the Senate Finance Committee, the Modernizing and Ensuring PBM Accountability (MEPA) Act and the Better Mental Health Care, Lower-Cost Drugs, and Extenders Act, both of which include provisions led by Lankford and work toward significant PBM transparency and reform so that seniors on Medicare have greater access to lower-priced prescription drugs. Lankford has previously pushed for accurate provider directories to enable health care plans to do their due diligence in negotiations with health providers and provide accurate information about covered services and providers to their beneficiaries.


Lankford: …For an Oklahoman that lives in a rural area, she’s in her mid 70s, several years ago, she used to go to her local physician. But that local physician practice has closed down because of just the administrative burden. They couldn’t keep it going. So now she drives to a hospital. It’s about 30-minutes away to be able to meet with a doctor there. The hospital and that physician is on her insurance. She has Medicare Advantage, but by the time she actually schedules an appointment, she actually lined up the appointment and found out they just switched it off. They’re no longer on Medicare Advantage. But they were when she…originally signed up for the plan.

…When she finally goes to the doctor on that, she gets there, the doctor needs to run some tests, but she can’t get the tests done that day because they have to do a prior authorization with the insurance company. So she has to drive home when it’s a test that she needs. They could do that day, but they can’t do that day because they’re waiting on prior authorization to be able to go through. The hard part is, two years later, that hospital has just stopped taking Medicare Advantage at all, as we’ve had several of our hospitals do in Oklahoma, saying that just the realized reimbursement is 20 percent less than Medicare. They just can’t keep up with Medicare Advantage because all the prior authorizations and because all the denial of service. So they’ve just stopped taking Medicare Advantage entirely, which for her really puts her in a difficult spot. She goes to a local pharmacist that she’s gone to for years and finds out that there’s pretty remarkable pressure on them, and they’re going to have a hard time. They’re not sure they’re going to be able to stay open. But her insurance company tells her, ‘Hey, we want you to do mail order pharmaceuticals.’ But she has pretty complicated chronic diseases, and she wants to have somebody that she can talk to.

…This is not a story just on United. This is just a reality that we’re facing here, especially in rural areas. And my state of 4 million people, 2 million people live in an urban area and 2 million people live in a rural area. So, it’s a reality for those folks that live in a rural area of those exact challenges that I laid out, not asking you to answer all of those. I guess I’m just I’m just saying those so you’ll hear it, because that really is a reality of what’s happening on the ground every day in rural Oklahoma.