Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
As Congress returns to session, I look forward to continuing efforts on behalf of Idahoans. Prior to adjourning for the August state work period, we made considerable progress on a number of issues before the Senate Finance Committee, on which I serve as Ranking Republican Member. I will continue to work to advance these and other efforts:
Helping to Lower Prescription Drug Costs--In July, the Senate Finance Committee overwhelmingly approved legislation I worked with Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and many others on to modernize federal prescription drug benefits to increase competition and drive down costs.
Pharmacy benefit managers (PBM)s negotiate drug benefits on behalf of health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, large employers and other payers, and have a significant behind-the-scenes impact in determining drug costs and patients’ access to medication. PBMs’ ability to negotiate larger rebates from manufacturers has helped lower drug prices and slow the growth of drug spending over the last three years. However, PBMs may also have an incentive to favor high-priced drugs over drugs that are more cost-effective. The Finance Committee has been examining proposals to bring more transparency, accountability and competition to the drug supply chain.
The “Modernizing and Ensuring PBM Accountability Act (MEPA)” makes targeted reforms that will empower consumers, plans, providers and pharmacies to make informed, cost-effective and clinically appropriate decisions, ultimately driving down prescription drug costs for patients. A strong coalition of Idaho groups support this legislation. The Committee’s 26-1 passage of MEPA is the first step in putting together this much-needed legislation, and we intend to add more proposals in the coming months.
Holding the IRS Accountable--The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that, except in rare circumstances, it will no longer make unannounced visits to taxpayers’ homes or businesses to resolve an unpaid tax bill. Instead the IRS will send a letter to schedule an appointment.
This major policy change happened after Finance Committee Republicans pressed the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for an explanation about reports of IRS agents appearing unannounced at a taxpayer’s home or business. These reports included an agent making a shocking statement during a “house call” and another agent appearing at a journalist’s home while he was testifying before Congress about government abuse.
The IRS’s suspension of most unannounced visits is a welcome step. But, the IRS must continue to take corrective action where necessary to ensure the agency works for taxpayers, rather than against them.
Strengthening Trade Ties with Taiwan--The Senate unanimously passed bipartisan, bicameral legislation I worked with Chairman Wyden to advance to approve the first trade agreement signed under the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade. The veto-proof bill, now law, will result in a more effective trade policy by increasing transparency and ensuring the results of any negotiation are durable. Congress will ensure the Administration fully complies with the Act. This bipartisan law was necessary to help grow the American economy, stand up to China’s economic aggression in the Asia-Pacific region and cement congressional authority in the trade negotiation process.
Taiwan Tax Legislation Markup—The Finance Committee will also meet in early September to mark up legislation to strengthen U.S. economic ties with Taiwan. This follows a July discussion draft released by Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means leadership. Taiwan is Idaho’s second largest trading partner, and this legislation provides an opportunity to help workers and businesses of all sizes get ahead in both the U.S. and Taiwan by addressing double taxation and encouraging more cross-border investment.
This is just a snapshot of some of the efforts underway in the Finance Committee I am grateful to help lead. Congress has other work it needs to complete before the end of 2023, including passing federal funding measures for the coming year and addressing the approaching expiration of Farm Bill programs. With the interests of Idahoans front and center, I will continue to press for meeting congressional responsibilities in a fiscally responsible manner.
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