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Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

02/18/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/18/2020 15:32

Senator Ernst Still Prioritizes Big Pharma over Iowa Families Hurting from Sky-High Rx Drug Prices

As Iowans struggle to afford life-saving medications, Senator Joni Ernst refuses to support giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices

Des Moines, Iowa - Senator Joni Ernst made a big show of her support for a prescription drug bill in the U.S. Senate instead of embracing the one action that would truly bring relief to the many Iowa families who are struggling to avoid the sky-high costs of their prescription drugs.

Ernst is failing Iowa by refusing to support legislation to give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug companies, a tool that would dramatically lower prescription drug prices. Meanwhile, she remains steadfast in her support of President Trump's health care sabotage agenda, and the lawsuit to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and end protections for millions of people with preexisting conditions.

Several Iowans condemned Ernst phony claims today and called on her to support real solutions for the prescription drug crisis:

John Forbes, Pharmacist and State Representative (D-Urbandale):

'My patients tell me firsthand the importance of lowering prescription drug costs. And the most important action we can take is to break the stranglehold that pharmaceutical companies have on Iowa families. Senators Ernst and Grassley should back the meaningful reforms in HR 3, which would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with these companies. It's time for Senators Ernst and Grassley to side with hard-working Iowans, not the pharmaceutical industry. Iowans deserve far better.'

Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director of Iowa Citizen Action Network and Lower Drug Prices Now-Iowa:

'It's clear that Senator Ernst is more interested in representing her special interest campaign donors than Iowans, which is a shame because we are hurting when it comes to the cost of prescription drugs. It is time for Ernst to stop selling us out and start representing us. Iowans will not forget that she is turning her back on meaningful reform in exchange for campaign support from big pharma.'

Matt Sinovic, Executive Director of Progress Iowa and state director of Protect Our Care Iowa:

'Senator Ernst has made it clear that real action to lower drug costs for Iowans is simply not a priority for her. In refusing to support legislation to give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prescription drug prices, Senator Ernst has ensured that life-saving drugs remain out of reach for many of the Iowans who need them. We need a Senator who will work to lower costs, and expand Iowans' access to care-not someone who continues to support gutting protections for people with pre-existing conditions and the president's partisan war on health care.'

Emily Holley, Executive Director of Iowa Voices:

'Senator Ernst has been promising for months that she wants to lower drug costs. Now, when given the ability to do so, she's supporting legislation that not only wouldn't lower costs but could increase them for millions of Iowans,' said Emily Holley, Executive Director of Iowa Voices. 'Senator Ernst should support the Lower Drug Costs Now Act and stop listening to her special interest donors who want to keep their profits sky high.'

BACKGROUND:

Ernst, A Big Recipient Of Pharmaceutical Cash, Has Refused To Support Medicare Drug Price Negotiations

After nearly a full term in office, Joni Ernst has never taken a position on allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, while accepting more than $50,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical giants. Ernst also voted for the 2017 GOP tax law - a giveaway to big pharma so large that just four pharmaceutical companies pocketed a massive$7 billion in tax savings in 2018 alone, all while prices for patients continue to rise.

Ernst Received A 'Big Boost' In Contributions From Pharmaceutical Companies In 2019 'Another vulnerable Republican incumbent, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, received about $35,500 - a huge bump for a lawmaker who, before this year, had collected about $15,000 total during her first term..' [Kaiser Health News, 8/27/19]

  • Ernst Has Received Over $50,000 In Pharma Contributions Over His Career. From 2007-2020 Ernst has received $50,500 in contributions from pharmaceutical companies. [Kaiser Health News, 9/3/19]

Ernst Supports Repealing The ACA And Its Protections For 1.2 Million Iowans with Pre-Existing Conditions

2014: Ernst Campaigned For The Senate With An Ad Where She 'Unloads' On Obamacare By Shooting It With A Handgun. 'Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst of Iowa has released a new TV ad vowing to 'unload' on Obamacare, in which she takes target practice at a shooting range with a handgun. The narrator of the ad says Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, 'carries more than just lipstick in her purse.' The commercial portrays her riding a motorcycle to a shooting range where she takes target practice. 'Joni Ernst will take aim at wasteful spending. And once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni's gonna unload,' the narrator continues. Next, Ernst starts firing a handgun at a target. 'Oh, and one more thing,' adds the narrator as the dispersal of her shots on the target come into view. 'Joni doesn't miss much.'' [Washington Post, 5/4/14]

2015: Ernst Voted To Repeal Most Of The ACA. Ernst voted for legislation that gutted the Affordable Care Act by eliminating the insurance exchanges and subsidies, and repealing the Medicaid expansion accepted by 30 states, including Nevada. [HR 3762, Roll Call Vote #114, 12/3/15]

  • HEADLINE: 'Ernst Supports ObamaCare Repeal' [Sen. Joni Ernst Press Release, 12/3/15]
  • Ernst Co-Sponsored Additional Legislation Authorizing 'The Full Repeal Of Obamacare.' 'Senator Ernst is also a co-sponsor of legislation introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), which authorizes the full repeal of ObamaCare 180 days after enactment of the bill in order to allow a six-month window to replace it with quality solutions.' [Sen. Joni Ernst Press Release, 12/3/15]

What would full repeal of the Affordable Care Act eliminate?

  • Protections for 1,288,400 Iowans with pre-existing conditions, if they buy coverage on their own
  • Improvements to Medicare, including reduced costs for prescription drugs
  • Allowing kids to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26
  • Ban on annual and lifetime limits
  • Ban on insurance discrimination against women
  • Limit on out-of-pocket costs
  • Medicaid expansion currently covering roughly 150,000 Iowans
  • Rules to hold insurance companies accountable
  • Small business tax credits
  • Marketplace tax credits and coverage for up to 46,519 Iowans

2017: Ernst Voted For The Senate 'Repeal And Delay' Plan. Ernst voted for Obamacare Repeal and Replacement Act was a Republican effort to repeal the ACA without a replacement. Known as 'repeal and delay,' the bill repealed major sections of the ACA, including the Medicaid expansion and premium tax credits, in 2020. [HR 1628, Roll Call Vote #169, 7/26/17]

  • If Repeal and Delay became law, 32 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2026. 18 million Americans would lose health coverage just in the first year after repeal.
  • Health insurance premiums would double for those in the individual market.

2017: Ernst Voted For The Better Care Reconciliation Act. Ernst voted for the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which repealed and replaced the ACA. [HR 1628, Roll Call Vote #168, 7/25/17]

2017: Ernst Voted For 'Skinny Repeal' Of The ACA. Ernst voted for 'Skinny Repeal' of the ACA, which repealed the individual mandate and delayed the employer mandate while leaving most of the rest of the law in place. [HR 1628, Roll Call Vote #179, 7/28/17]

According To CBO, Skinny Repeal Would Have Resulted In The Largest Coverage Loss in American History:

  • At minimum, 15 million Americans would lose coverage in 2018. This would have been the biggest one-year increase in our nation's history.
  • Premiums would go up by roughly 20 percent

2017: Ernst Refused To Give Up On Repealing The Affordable Care Act After The Failure Of The Senate Bills. 'Iowa's U.S. senators vowed Friday to continue trying to rein in Obamacare after coming up on the losing end of an early morning vote on a controversial 'skinny repeal' bill. […] Ernst said Friday she's also not ready to give up on repealing the Affordable Care Act. 'We don't have the option to sit back and do nothing; Iowans are demanding relief from Obamacare,' she wrote in a statement released by her staff. 'I am disappointed that the Senate was unable to advance important changes to this flawed law. We must now continue to find ways to work on behalf of Iowans and the American people who have been negatively impacted by Obamacare to find affordable, patient-centered solutions that work for them.'' [Des Moines Register, 7/28/17]