DALLAS — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Colin Allred hosted a roundtable in Dallas Monday focusing on expanding Medicaid in the state and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.
Texas is one of a dozen states in the U.S. that haven’t expanded Medicaid and the state has both the highest count and highest percentage of uninsured residents in the state.
Nearly one in five Texans don’t have insurance.
“This would expand lifesaving coverage to more than 1 million Texans, 1 million Texans, if we would just expand Medicaid here,” Allred said.
The panel included North Texans who shared personal stories like not being able to afford insulin, a common example for wanting to lower prescription drug prices since it cost can often go into the hundreds of dollars.
The roundtable also touched on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health clinic leaders said funds from the American Rescue Plan Act allowed them to expand coverage, but part of the reason the roundtable is timely now is that those funds are going away.
Dallas County Health Director Dr. Phil Huang said that he's worried about how they’ll continue funding vaccinations and testing afterwards. He said Parkland was spending $1.8 million dollars a month to treat uninsured COVID patients.
While there are discussions in Congress to add more COVID funding, disagreements over what the money should be allocated for and how to pay for it have preventing anything concrete from passing.
Expanding Medicaid has been a mostly Democrat-led effort, but former President Donald Trump took action to begin negotiating lower prescription drug costs and campaigned partly on the idea of using what’s referred to as a Most Favored Nation model, connecting medicine costs to the price in other developed countries where they’re cheaper.
Pelosi focused blame on Republicans in Congress and lobbying from pharmaceutical companies that she argued were spending more money on advertising than research.
“This is a mission because this is right on the kitchen table of every table in America,” Pelosi said. “I have seen grown men cry as I’ve gone around the country and listened to people, the priorities of the American people.”
Outside of health care, Allred and Pelosi touched on increased gas prices and the conflict in Ukraine.
Allred called it “misinformation” to say that domestic production is being held back. Pelosi noted there are 6,000 unused drilling permits that have already been issued and said higher prices are due to the Russian invasion.