Health and Lowering Drug Costs

Health issues affect all of us, from the quality of care to the availability of medical treatment in every community. As the next legislative session gets into full gear, Shelly is working to advance bold solutions and address the affordability crisis head-on. She’s working to hold accountable the big corporations that continue to profit from price gouging everyday Virginians, working to ensure women have access to critical life-saving care, and working to protect our freedoms and access to abortion and reproductive services in the Commonwealth.

In 2021, Shelly was the chief co-patron on a bill to expand telehealth in Virginia to make it easier to get medical help online which was essential during the Covid pandemic for access to care. Shelly introduced HB 1815 – a bill which would remove financial barriers to imaging that can rule out breast cancer or confirm the need for a biopsy. The bill proposed to eliminate co-pays for diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging such as MRIs, ultrasounds and diagnostic mammograms when medically necessary. These exams often require high out-of-pocket costs, which can be a barrier for women who may sacrifice their own health to afford essentials for their family. This means many women don’t seek care until it’s too late when cancer has spread to other parts of the body, making it deadlier and more costly to treat. 

Shelly plans to bring the bill back next year because over 7,000 women in Virginia are newly diagnosed with breast cancer each year and more than 1,000 die. Early detection is key to survival and removing this barrier will save lives. Shelly plans to continue the fight for easier access to lifesaving diagnostic mammography and breast imaging.

A recurring theme for the General Assembly has been affordability and supporting policies that bring down everyday costs for millions of Virginians. We have great concerns about the problems people face being able to afford the necessities of life such as housing, healthcare and higher education.

One major reason healthcare costs have gotten out of control is the rising cost of simply filling a prescription. Last year, pharmaceutical companies, in pursuit of greater profits, raised the price of over 1,200 prescription drugs by an average of 31.6%, several times the rate of inflation. This included everything from common prescriptions to lifesaving cancer and diabetes treatments. And to make matters worse, an economic study of Virginia’s health sector determined that Virginians pay well above the national average for their medicines – around 36% more than most Americans.

Costs are out of control, and as a result millions of Virginians are struggling to keep up with their doctor’s orders, often forced to choose between filling a prescription or going without it. In 2019, one out of four Virginians reported skipping doses, cutting pills, or not being able to get their medicine at all due to cost. That’s unacceptable.

Shelly has been among the legislators proposing a bill to establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board – an independent group of healthcare experts that would be able to review price increases, seek justification from manufacturers, and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for price gouging by setting reasonable caps on certain high-cost medications when necessary. No one sitting on this board would be allowed to have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry or any major stakeholders, and they would be prohibited from receiving money or gifts from anyone in the healthcare industry.

A drug affordability board would be an important and logical step forward for bringing down costs for Virginians after the General Assembly nearly unanimously passed legislation in 2021 creating greater transparency in drug pricing, forcing manufacturers and providers to report their prices and other information to the Department of Health.

All of this would build on the important work we’ve already done in recent years to improve our healthcare system, make it more affordable, and bring down costs for Virginians.