A Minute With Mary


By:  Mary Bono Mack
Date: July 13, 2012
Location: Unknown

With President Obama's healthcare law now projected to be more than twice as expensive as originally claimed, the House of Representatives voted this week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, H.R. 6079. Five Democrats joined in voting to repeal Obamacare, because poll after poll shows the same result: A majority of Americans oppose the law and want it gone. Simply put, Obamacare is too costly, imposes one of the largest tax increases in history -- primarily on the middle class -- and is morally wrong because it will eventually lead to a government takeover of our healthcare system. That's not what Americans want.

We need a simpler, smarter healthcare plan which makes certain patients are not denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions; children can remain on their parents insurance policy until they are 26 years old; and seniors can continue to get the help they need paying for expensive prescription drugs. We can do all of these things without resorting to government-dictated healthcare that will cost $1.8 trillion and put 800,000 Americans out of work.

Also this week, the House approved H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012. This legislation will streamline approval of domestic mineral exploration and development projects by eliminating duplicative analysis and removing unneeded and burdensome regulatory hurdles. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), implementing H.R. 4402 has no significant impact on the federal budget, but it will help to create American jobs and stimulate the economy.

As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, another issue that I have been following closely took center stage this week. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced final plans to require nearly two dozen companies that make so-called "extended release or long-acting painkillers" to provide expanded education to prescribers and consumers about the risks of addiction.

While this is a step in the right direction, why has it taken the FDA nearly three years to act? How many people have died needlessly in the meantime? For years, my goal has been to improve prescriber education by getting doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners and other prescribers up to speed on the dangers of addiction and to make certain that powerful and seductive narcotic prescription drugs, such as Oxycontin, are used to treat severe pain only -- not moderate pain like a tooth ache or sore knee.

Today, two classes of medicines -- painkillers and insomnia/anxiety drugs -- are responsible for about 70 deaths and nearly 3,000 emergency room visits a day. These are truly stunning numbers. But here's what's even more alarming: The death toll from overdoses of these powerfully-addictive medicines now claims more lives than heroin and cocaine combined.

Prescription drug abuse is now the fastest-growing drug problem in America and the FDA needs to do more to combat this deadly public health epidemic. By better coordinating the efforts of local, state and national agencies -- and by reducing the supply of highly addictive opioid painkillers -- I am convinced that we can eventually save thousands of lives, and spare millions of American families from the devastating heartache of addiction.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is meeting with folks from back home. On Wednesday, I had a chance to sit down with teen leaders from the Citizenship Project of the Desert Compadres 4-H club in Blythe, California. They were a great group of kids, and I really enjoyed hearing about what they're working on. What energy and dedication!

On Thursday, I held a hearing as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade on an important tool in combating cross-border fraud, spam and spyware. The U.S. SAFE WEB Act of 2006 is set to expire next year, and I will soon be introducing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize this important crime-fighting and consumer protection law for another seven years.

Clearly, there's a lot at stake. About a decade ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began to highlight the growing problems it encountered in effectively combating Internet scams and fraud directed at American citizens by foreign operators, often times involving organized crime rings. By 2005, an estimated 20 percent of consumer complaints the FTC received involved fraud originating outside of the United States. According to an analysis of those complaints from the Consumer Sentinel Network, Americans suffered annual losses to foreign operators, totaling nearly $220 million.

The FTC subsequently identified severe limitations in its authority to combat cross-border fraud, spam and spyware relative to that of other U.S. regulators. The biggest roadblock to protecting American consumers was the Commission's lack of authority to share information with foreign law enforcement agencies. In 2006, Congress voted unanimously to approve the U.S. SAFE WEB Act. By any measure, this important law has been a clear success, and I plan to champion its reauthorization.

Next week, the House will begin work on the FY 2013 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill. The legislation includes $128.5 billion to provide for 1,401,560 active-duty troops and 843,400 reserves. This funding level is $2.6 billion below last year, due to the reduction in troop totals. This also includes a 1.7% pay raise for the military.

And finally, thanks for all of your emails, letters, faxes and phone calls this week. It's important to hear what you're thinking. Have a great weekend!

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