Did Lauren Underwood Take Credit and Fundraise Off of Something She Did Not Do?
Over the weekend, commenter Han Bell posted several comments Saturday and early Sunday concerning H.R. 5444, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood’s “Lower Insulin Costs Now Act”.
Han Bell applied discernment to question the timing of a bill introduced by Underwood, and asked a valid question — is it possible for submitted legislation to make it into the final appropriations bill which House and Senate leaders had working for months, within a span of 6 hours?
According to the Congressional Record, debate on the two omnibus appropriations bills, H.R. 1158 and H.R. 1865, started on midday on Tuesday. So if Underwood’s legislation was in the hopper at the start of business, 9AM EST, would it reasonably be voted on as part of H.R. 1865 which was approved at 2:05PM?
The answer, is “yes”, provided the legislation had been worked on prior to being introduced.
The answer to the first question at the top is “No”
And after working with Underwood’s congressional staff to answer questions, in particular the timing questions and seeing the final draft of H.R. 5444 from her staff that was not available online at congress.gov, using the NFL referee’s saying after video review, “…after further review, the play stands.”
To recap, Underwood’s Twitter ID submitted the following just after Midnight Saturday morning:
Given lower prescription drug prices, especially for insulin is important to everyone, and upon confirmation the language is in place in the appropriations bills approved on Thursday and signed into law, McHenry County Blog did this story. Han Bell’s comments from the weekend can be viewed there.
Later on Saturday, many 14th district constituents and campaign donors received an Underwood email solicitation, similar to this:
The tweet and the email from Saturday were from the political side of Underwood’s organization.
Underwood’s bill, H.R. 5444, cannot be viewed currently on congress.gov, was drafted and submitted on Tuesday, 12/17, as a bill with the House clerk.
After receiving a copy of the text of the legislation from Underwood’s staff which was timestamped 12/16, it was learned Section 607 of the Health and Human Services portion of H.R. 1865 reads word-for-word with H.R. 5444, which received the President’s signature on Friday as part of H.R. 1865.
Before moving to the congressional staff’s communication, it must be pointed out that everyone, the Trump Administration, and both parties in Congress, want to bring the costs of insulin and other prescription drugs down for American consumers.
The previous Congress gave this policy direction in 2018 concerning insulin.
In some of Han Bell’s comments to Saturday’s article, he accurately referred to the well publicized policy change by the Trump Administration through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reclassify insulin as a “biologic” medication, as part of Congress’ policy change going forward.
The FDA published their decision last year, on December 11, and the link is below. The publication is very clear, insulin had been managed and approved as a “drug”, would now be treated like a “biologic”, with advantages to bringing meds, including generics, to the market faster, and through competition, lowering the prices given existing legislation that applies to biologics, but not to drugs.
Back to H.R. 5444, the congressional staff issued a press release on Monday.
Around midday on Monday, one of Underwood’s congressional staff issued the following 3-part tweet, which is transcribed below:
Happy Monday to anyone who pays too much for prescription drugs!
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood’s Lower Insulin Costs Now Act signed into law.
The Lower Insulin Costs Now Act will reduce the cost of insulin by helping lower-cost, generic insulin become available sooner & create access to new treatments that can lower the cost of insulin for those who rely on it to survive.
From Congresswoman Underwood:
“There isn’t a person I won’t work with to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and I’m thrilled my colleagues in Congress and the President supported this advancement toward making lower-cost, generic insulin available more quickly.”Tweets from Congresswoman Underwood’s congressional staff 12/23/19 12:22PM CST
The above tweets included a linked story in a newspaper of Shaw Media, and it referenced a press release from Congresswoman Underwood. The news release was available to the public by mid afternoon.
Here’s where questions/confusion clouded the discernment.
Underwood is not the only member of Congress who had legislation filed on insulin to implement the FDA’s new plan to bring the prices down.
Senator Dick Durbin’s legislation, filed back on July 11 to address insulin pricing, was in the mix.
On July 11, Durbin filed S. 2103, “Affordable Insulin Approvals Now Act”
The bill, similar to Underwood’s H.R. 5444 in concept, extends the policy change by the Trump Administration’s FDA to bring the price of insulin down through the reclassification of insulin as a biologic medication.
The Durbin legislation removes a March 23, 2020 deadline the FDA had to operate under in order to allow for more insulin biologics after March 23, 2020.
While Durbin’s July legislation did not progress on its own, through the Senate’s appropriations process, Durbin’s bill was included in the appropriations negotiations.
But where Durbin’s legislation was a high level concept, it was Underwood’s legislation which fleshed out the details.
According to Underwood’s congressional staff, they verified that H.R. 5444 is identical to what was in the appropriations text that was signed.
The staff added, H.R. 5444 is the same concept as the Durbin bill, but has different effective date, sunset provision, and language that defines how the FDA would list drug applications in the orange book.
Underwood’s legislation was delayed to December because of their additional due diligence working with the FDA to ensure H.R. 5444 will work in real world application.
Put another way, Underwood’s staff did the leg work, but that did not stop Durbin from issuing a press release on Thursday (below) and Friday:
Going back to the NFL referee ruling, Durbin would be flagged for a 15 yard penalty with loss-of-down for not citing Underwood’s legislation, let alone her due diligence to implement the concept of his legislation from July.
Durbin hasn’t even acknowledged Underwood’s accomplishment on Twitter.
In a future article, will bring up for discussion the latest interview with Underwood and the Daily Herald where she discusses the next step for H.R. 3 (House passed prescription drug pricing) and cites what part of the Senate version (S. 2543) could/should make progress next year.
- FDA 12/11/18 Policy Change for Insulin: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-new-actions-advancing-agencys-biosimilars-policy
- 12/23/19: ShawMedia article: https://www.kendallcountynow.com/2019/12/23/rep-underwoods-lower-insulin-costs-now-act-signed-into-law/aidy73j
- Underwood Press Release 12/23/19: https://underwood.house.gov/media/press-releases/two-pieces-underwood-s-bipartisan-legislation-signed-law-president-trump
- Durbin Press Release 12/19/19: https://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/durbin-cramer-smith-applaud-inclusion-of-bill-to-lower-cost-of-insulin-for-patients-in-year-end-funding-bill
- 12/17/19 Congressional Record: https://www.congress.gov/116/crec/2019/12/17/CREC-2019-12-17.pdf
- H.R.5444 – To amend the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 to streamline the transition of certain products from approval as a drug to licensure as a biological product, and for other purposes. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5444/text
- S.2103 Affordable Insulin Approvals Now Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2103/text