Cunningham Hit Ground Running When It Came To Tamping Down on Drug Prices

December 4, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – In the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Rep. Joe Cunningham’s race for Congress quickly became the stuff of local legend.

Here was a first-time candidate, a Democrat running in a staunchly Republican district, who defeated a well-financed GOP opponent, to become the first Democratic representative from South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District since 1981.

But the ever-energetic congressman didn’t stop there. Almost as soon as he arrived in Washington, at a time when many newcomers were still losing their way in the Capitol’s winding hallways, he was looking to fulfill some important campaign promises.

The first was filing a bill to ban offshore oil and gas exploration off the South Carolina coast. Soon thereafter, he actively joined efforts in the House to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

“One of my earliest constituent meetings was with Lowcountry parents who struggle to afford life-saving insulin for their children,” Cunningham recently said of the urgency he felt.

“In the last five years, the cost of one of the most common brands of insulin has increased from $2,907 a year to more than $4,700 a year. Meetings like these reaffirm to me how urgent this issue is,” he said.

In May, he voted in favor of H.R. 986, a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions, an effort to buttress the Affordable Care Act against administration efforts to weaken it.

He followed up that vote, by introducing the CLAY Act, which would lower the cost of prescription drugs for beneficiaries who receive the low-income subsidy (LIS) in Medicare Part D.

More recently, Cunningham joined with fellow members of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate House Democrats to endorse a series of prescription drug pricing bills that they believe, if taken up individually, could pass a Democratic-led House and a Republican-led Senate.

They include the CREATES Act and BLOCKING Act, bills aimed at helping generic drug makers bring their products to market more quickly while also lifting barriers to competition.

Cunningham told The Well News that when it comes to the issue of drug pricing, he expects meaningful results to be achieved, even against the headwinds of the ongoing impeachment proceedings and the impending 2020 political campaigns.

“Of course I do,” he said.

“My top priority in Congress is to serve the people of the Lowcountry and I know that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle feel the same way about their districts and their constituents,” Cunningham said.

“Lowering the cost of prescription drugs isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s an American one,” he added.

“Frankly, this issue is far beyond politics, this is about quality of life,” he said. “Nearly 3-in-10 South Carolinians have reported that they’ve had to stop taking medication as prescribed because of cost in the last year,” he said. “We need to get this legislation signed into law as soon as possible for them – and for folks across the nation.”

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