NY-21 candidates differ on the right prescription for health care – Glens Falls Post-Star

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Health care is once again a big issue in the race for the NY-21 Congressional District seat, as the nation grapples with a pandemic and the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear a case that could strike down the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, continues to hammer Democratic opponent Tedra Cobb for her previous support of Medicare for All, and Cobb has criticized Stefanik for supporting the lawsuit to overturn Obamacare.

Democratic NY-21 candidate Tedra Cobb makes her opening remarks in a debate against Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, on Monday afternoon at WWNY-TV in Watertown.

Tedra Cobb

Cobb, of Canton, ran for the seat two years ago because she said Stefanik voted in favor of repealing the health care law.

“I’m in the race because Elise Stefanik has voted to repeal the ACA to kick 64,000 people in the district off their health care and to strip away protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Cobb said.

Cobb said about 40% of people in the district who are not elderly have some sort of pre-existing condition.

“It could be anything from childhood asthma or adult asthma, high blood pressure or cancer. Now COVID is a pre-existing condition,” she said.

Cobb has indicated that she no longer supports a complete government takeover of health care, but is in favor of adding a public option to Medicare. That would allow people to buy into the system, or they could stay on private insurance.

“It’s about expanding access quickly and it’s about choice,” she said.

Medical personnel wearing personal protective equipment work in the emergency department at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan on May 27 in New York City. 

Cobb criticized Stefanik for voting against the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

“It would have capped out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and it would have allowed Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices,” Cobb said.

The bill would also set maximum prices for insulin products and at least 25 brand-name drugs that do not have generic competition and that are among the 125 drugs that account for the greatest national spending, according to Congress.gov.

Cobb accused Stefanik of being beholden to health insurance and pharmaceutical companies because they have donated to her campaign.

Cobb also criticized Stefanik for her position on Medicare. Cobb said Stefanik wrote the plan in 2012 in the GOP platform to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

In 2017, Stefanik voted to reduce future funding of Medicare by $500 billion and raise the eligibility age to 67. She also voted in 2018 to cut Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars, Cobb said.

Cobb said one in four people in the district rely on Social Security for their main source of income and also depend on Medicare.

Another focus of Cobb’s is making sure people have equal access to different types of health care services.

“Insurance companies are supposed to cover mental health and substance abuse disorder equally like they do our physical health. They do not and we need to hold them accountable,” she said.

She also wants to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable, such as Johnson & Johnson, that have helped fuel the opioid crisis.

Cobb said Stefanik voted against providing funding for health care navigators to help families find addiction treatment for their loved ones.

There needs to be sufficient beds for detox, Cobb said, adding that she also would also like all doctors and front-line health care workers to receive training in dealing with people in substance abuse and recovery.

She would also like to see a student loan repayment program for health care and other public service workers.

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Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, makes her opening remarks in a debate against Democratic NY-21 candidate Tedra Cobb on Monday afternoon at WWNY-TV in Watertown. 

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik

Stefanik said she would like to keep the aspects of the Affordable Care Act that are working, including requiring coverage of those people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to remain on their parents’ health care plans to the age of 26.

She would like small businesses to be able to band together to buy health care insurance to increase their purchasing power. She said she would also like the ability to be able to purchase health care across state lines.

In addition, she would increase the number of primary care visits that are fully covered by insurance from one to two.

Stefanik pointed to her legislative accomplishments to repeal the medical device tax.

“That has had a real impact on employers and manufacturers in Warren County and allowed us to invest in their work force,” she told The Post-Star.

Medical personnel wearing personal protective equipment work in the emergency department at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan on May 27 in New York City. 

Stefanik has also worked to repeal the “Cadillac tax” on expensive health insurance plans and helped pass the repeal of the auto enrollment mandate, which required employers with more than 200 full-time workers to automatically enroll new employees to an employer-sponsored plan.

Stefanik is an original co-sponsor of the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, which is a package of 40 provisions to lower out-of-pocket spending, ensure medicines and cures are not heavily taxed, strengthen transparency and accountability and promote competition in the medical community.

Stefanik said the bill would streamline the Food and Drug Administration approval of drugs and make sure that generic versions are able to get to the marketplace faster.

“It would actually lower costs and wouldn’t include a 95% tax on life-saving cures,” she said.

She said the bill contains provisions to help encourage more manufacturing of drugs domestically. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the problems with off-shore manufacturing, she said.

In addition, it would eliminate the so-called “pay to delay” provision, where manufacturers of brand-name drugs pay retailers to preserve their space on the pharmacy shelves.

The bill had bipartisan support, according to Stefanik. However, that piece of legislation was not brought forward in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

“Had (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi moved that bill, it would have been signed into law,” she said.

Stefanik’s campaign pointed to the work that she did to protect Medicaid’s 340B prescription drug program to help deliver low-cost prescriptions to communities.

Stefanik also has continued to provide funding for community health centers, which serve over 95,000 patients in the North Country, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“We need to focus on mental health in rural communities. I’ve been a big advocate of community health centers,” she said.

Stefanik cited her funding that she has provided for these centers and her work to rewrite the funding formula to allow Glens Falls Hospital to receive $44 million in funding that it was otherwise not eligible.

In addition, Stefanik said she has worked to obtain funding for organizations that are fighting the opioid epidemic. She cited the Opioid Workforce Act, which would provide funding for more doctors specifically trained in this area. In addition, she also worked to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for vulnerable populations.

She has sponsored the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities, which would give priority to projects related to substance abuse treatment.

She co-sponsored the Opioid Addiction Prevention Act, which requires people applying for Drug Enforcement Administration licenses to attest that they will adhere to best practices in prescribing controlled substances.

Stefanik said she is proud of the work she has done in Congress on health care.

In this 2018 file photo, pharmaceuticals are seen in North Andover, Mass.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.