DES MOINES — Iowa’s senior U.S. senator said he supports the president’s efforts to change the Affordable Care Act within the confines of the law.
In response to an audience question, Sen. Chuck Grassley said during a public event in Des Moines Thursday that states are restricted under the ACA because “Republicans didn’t carry out our campaign promise to repeal and replace.”
He spoke on the Obama-era health care law, as well as the priorities of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, at the Global Insurance Symposium this week, the annual event presented by the Iowa Insurance Division, among others, to discuss best practices and trending topics within the insurance industry.
This year’s event — which ran Tuesday through Thursday — was attended by hundreds of participants from across the world, according to event officials.
Grassley said while states are restricted, President Donald Trump does have the opportunity to try to shift the law with policies such as repealing the individual mandate and creating association health plans.
“The idea is to get out of the straitjacket,” Grassley told The Gazette before his keynote.
As the final keynote of the event and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley touted the success his committee has in driving policies on prescription drug cost, retirement, trade and health care.
Grassley spoke on legislation he introduced earlier this month called RESA, or the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act, which is an effort to expand access to retirement plans — particularly for smaller businesses that struggle to offer retirement packages to employees because of complex rules and high cost.
The legislation allows small businesses to group together and create multi-employer plans, Grassley said.
The legislation, he said, if passed would cut down overhead costs for small employers. In addition, it would encourage more individuals to create retirement plans, supplement it with Social Security “and have a higher quality of retirement,” he said.
Grassley also spoke on his committee’s plans to introduce legislation by mid-June to reduce prescription drug costs. The Senate Finance Committee has held several hearings regarding the issue in the past several months, which included testimonials from pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers, or a third-party administrator of prescription drug costs for insurance plans.
“We’re getting fingers pointed at each other,” Grassley said. “Pharmacy benefit managers say the problem of high drug costs are the pharmaceutical companies that drive up their prices. The pharmaceutical companies come in and say it’s because the pharmacy benefit managers demand so much for rebates.
“I’m sorry to say, even a senator does not know the secrecy of the pricing of drugs in this country,” he said. “We have to get to the bottom of it. We have to take the secrecy out of it.”
Grassley said senators plan to introduce legislation that would lower costs across the board for consumers, which is similar to proposals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce prescription costs for Medicare recipients.
He added this plan to reduce prescription drug prices is just the start of his committee’s effort to reduce the cost of health care in general for Americans.
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