U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley started his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters with a disclaimer — he’s not glued to his television monitoring the House impeachment investigation.
“I know everyone in the news media wants to talk about impeachment, at least that’s the way it is out here in Washington, D.C.,” the Iowa senator said Wednesday. “That’s understandable. Impeaching a president is a very serious matter, and Washington is very captivated by it.”
However, the Republican says that only underscores his belief that “Washington, D.C., is an island surrounded by reality.”
“Right now, most Americans aren’t talking about impeachment,” he said. “They’re focused on real issues they and their families are facing.”
So while Grassley’s staff will be following the public hearings to give him daily updates, the senator said he will be focused on issues important to the Iowans.
That includes his plan to control prescription drug prices.
Grassley recently cited a Gallup poll that found more than 13 percent of American adults — 34 million people — said they knew of someone who died because they could not afford medical treatment and 58 million Americans say they can’t afford their prescription drugs.
According to Gallup, the percentage of adults who report not having had enough money in the past 12 months to “pay for needed medicine or drugs that a doctor prescribed” to them is rising. The percentage has increased significantly, from 18.9 percent in January 2019 to 22.9 percent in September. The rate for women — 27.5 percent — has risen 5 percent and widens the gender gap when compared with men, with an 18.1 percent rate.
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Grassley’s plan, jointly sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, would cap prescription drug price increases year-over-year at the rate of inflation as well as out-of-pocket expenses. That would give people peace of mind, he said.
It also would save more than $100 billion and “have the effect of reducing premiums on commercial insurance beyond saving money for Medicare,” he added.
The Grassley-Wyden bill is a compromise the sponsors believe will get the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor.
Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is pushing her own bill, call for negotiating drug prices. Grassley doesn’t like that approaching, saying it would “put the government between doctor and the patient.”
The Grassley-Wyden bill is a compromise.
“And it’s going to be a moderate position between doing nothing and doing what Pelosi wants to do — having the government dictate prices,” he said, adding that his bill has White House support.
The Senate is split 53-47 between Republicans and Democrats, respectively, and Grassley said he has the support of all but two or three Democrats and “ought to be able to get at least half of the Republicans to be for it.”