PREVENTION THROUGH AFFORDABLE ACCESS ACT -- (Senate - December 19, 2007)
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from North Dakota for his graciousness. It is my understanding that there will be an objection to this unanimous consent request. At this point there is not someone on the floor to object, so I will briefly talk about what I am asking that we do, and then, as a courtesy to our colleagues on the other side, if we do not have someone here I will postpone the actual motion. But let me just say, because I want to make sure I am only taking a moment--I know Senator Dorgan has some important words--let me just say I will be asking unanimous consent that S. 2347, the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, be discharged and the Senate proceed to its consideration and pass it.
Due to an unfortunate drafting mistake in last year's Deficit Reduction Act, some safety net providers, such as family planning clinics and other health centers, cannot receive contraception from drugmakers at nominal drug prices without violating Medicaid's best price rule. These are drugs that in fact are donated. Since this law became effective in January, the provision has been a tremendous hardship for women across America and has driven up the cost of contraception, family planning, by some 400 percent in some cases.
Because of this, many women cannot afford their prescriptions, and clinics are being forced to close because they can no longer receive the donations they have traditionally received. This is sure to result in an unintended series of pregnancies among low-income women and students. This is very serious for women and families across America.
Hundreds of articles have been published documenting the impact of this mistake. We understand our Republican colleagues have indicated this was a mistake. This has affected low-income women and families on college campuses nationwide. Some clinics stocked up early, but their supplies are running out. For too many clinics, especially in rural areas and on college campuses, they simply do not have enough resources to overcome this provision which, it was indicated, in fact was a technical drafting error. According to one family planning organization, over 200 clinics across 34 States serving half a million patients are at imminent risk of closing, and therefore women and their families lose these important health care facilities.
In my own State, women in rural parts of Michigan will have limited or no access to contraception. I have already heard from rural health clinics, as well as universities, student clinics, how this provision, passed last year, is hurting women and potentially causing these centers to close. Again, this is essential health care for women that is at risk.
I rise today to express my strong support for the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act. This bipartisan bill, introduced by Senator Obama and myself and nearly 30 other Senators, is a commonsense solution to a major problem affecting our Nation's family planning providers. Historically, Congress has expanded access to affordable prescription drugs for vulnerable populations in America by permitting pharmaceutical companies to offer what is called nominally priced drugs, drugs that are either donated or provided at dramatically reduced prices, to certain health care providers.
What we are asking for today is merely a technical correction, to do the right thing. The Prevention Through Affordable Access Act will not cost the Government anything and merely will allow pharmaceutical companies that are willing to continue to donate drugs to safety net family planning clinics to do that.
This is invaluable in terms of women's health care. I urge my colleagues to join me in doing the responsible thing by passing S. 2347 now.
Congress must act responsibly now to ensure that family planning services and birth control pricing are restored this year. For too many families across America, this is an urgent situation. Women cannot wait until next session to have this mistake corrected and affordable birth control returned.
At this point we do not have someone, I understand, on the floor to address this from the other side, so I will delay actually asking for the unanimous consent until a later point. I do intend to do so. It would be my hope that, in fact, with such a large number of Senators supporting this effort we would be able to get this done today.
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