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Americans deserve a healthy future

OPINION by U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, guest column | May 1, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

When my eldest son was born, he suffered from a life-threatening respiratory disease that would not respond to traditional treatments. His doctors offered us the option of an experimental treatment that was not covered by insurance. For my wife and I, it didn't matter how much it cost. We would make sure our son got better and figure out how to pay for it later. Thankfully, the treatment was successful, and my son is now 26 years old. I am so grateful for the American ingenuity that allowed such lifesaving treatments to be developed in time to save my son's life.

Years later, I found myself at the center of a health care crisis once again. I served in the Arkansas Legislature during Medicaid expansion, and, after that, on the House Budget Committee during the failed repeal of Obamacare. These experiences showed me firsthand the consequences of poorly structured health care policy. Health care drastically affects each of our lives, and I am passionate about ensuring Americans can affordably access the lifesaving treatments they need.

That's why I'm so proud that Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy recently launched the Healthy Future Task Force to develop an advanced health care agenda for America. I specifically joined the Treatments Subcommittee to help develop policy to lower drug costs, fast-track the innovation of medicines, devices, and diagnostics, and promote American-made medicines.

The U.S. is a global leader in innovation. Patients benefit the most when they quickly access new treatments without onerous and unnecessary government interference. Unfortunately, it can take years for government-insured patients on Medicare, Medicaid, or in the VA health system to gain access to new, breakthrough treatments and devices after FDA approval. Privately insured patients, however, generally have access to these treatments much earlier. For some on the left, the answer is always more money, but more money won't solve the problem of slow government bureaucracy. Instead, the government should be removing barriers to access and burdensome regulations that prevent innovative therapies from coming to market.

New treatments won't mean anything, however, if we don't secure our nation's medical supply chains. The COVID-19 pandemic made clear we are far too dependent on our greatest strategic competitors. We never should have become reliant on China and other strategic adversaries for the majority of our nation's personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. America can -- and should -- continue to be the world's leader in medical innovation and advanced medical manufacturing, and my colleagues and I on the Health Future Task Force are committed to making that a reality.

In the coming year, our subcommittee will address the root problems that plague our health care system. I look forward to presenting common-sense legislation to lower drug costs for all Americans, secure domestic medical supply chains, unleash American manufacturing and production, and supercharge American leadership in medical innovation, cures, and treatments.

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