Johnson, Joyce, and Carter Lay Out National Health Care Priorities

“Pharmaceutical independence, just like energy independence, is necessary for national security.”

WASHINGTON, DC – In a wide-ranging discussion yesterday morning before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, three Members of the U.S. House of Representatives laid out some of the top healthcare challenges facing the American people, and how they are working to address these challenges in the coming year.

The members were: Bill Johnson, who represents the 6th District of Ohio and serves on the Subcommittee on Health within the Committee on Energy & Commerce; Dave Joyce, who represents the 14th District of Ohio and serves as Co-Chair of the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus; and Buddy Carter, who represents the 1st District of Georgia and also serves on the Subcommittee on Health.

“My priorities on the Health Subcommittee are telehealth [and] increasing transparency,” stated Johnson. “Transparency helps with competition if everybody in the system, and especially the consumer, knows what they’re getting themselves into. We see good things happen in a free-enterprise system that’ll lower costs and improve access. Improving access is a big deal in Appalachia.”

Johnson also discussed the epidemic of deaths caused by fentanyl throughout the country, one of the top priorities that the Committee on Energy & Commerce has long been committed to resolving.

“Some people call it fentanyl overdoses,” he observed.  “But they’re actually fentanyl poisonings. You’ve seen a lot of the activity that we’re taking on with our committee to address that issue and the amount of fentanyl that is flooding across the border into our country. We’re taking action to make fentanyl-related substances Schedule 1, moving them up so that the bad guys can’t change a molecule in their formula and sidestep the law.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 106,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses with 70,601 of those lives lost due to fentanyl in 2021 – which is why, Johnson said, Congress must put politics aside and find common ground on the issue.

“This is not a partisan issue,” he declared.  “It should not be a partisan issue. Fortunately, we’ve got Democrat colleagues on the other side that agree with us that we’ve got to address this.  And we’ve got to address it now, because the drug is killing Americans at an alarming rate.”

Joyce, a former public defender and later an elected county prosecutor, reflected on his time working in the justice system and how that has influenced his priorities in Congress.

“Shockingly, mental health and drug addiction are usually intertwined in such a way that if you’re treating one, you’re treating the other,” he stated.  “We’ve all seen the situations where folks take the medicine and then they feel better, and they don’t feel they have to take the medicine again. It’s a terrible cycle.”

In addition to serving as Co-Chair of the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, Joyce is a member of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force. Alongside other Members of the task force, he reintroduced the Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act of 2023 earlier this year.

“Law enforcement and first responders are often the first ones there,” he said, explaining why he authored the bill.  “Imagine going in where you’re seeing a family suffering because someone’s died. The PTSD levels have increased dramatically among first responders. It was important that we be able to provide them [with] the help and relief that they need.”

Following Joyce, Carter, a pharmacist, opened his remarks by discussing how telehealth has become a key element of modern healthcare.

“We all understand telehealth and how, as the New York Times described it, it advanced 10 years in one day,” he said. “It did during the pandemic and has now become an integral part of healthcare. That is why I have got a bill, the Telehealth Modernization Act, that will extend the flexibilities that were put into telehealth during the pandemic and make them permanent, which is very important.”

Carter, in step with his colleagues, also shared his insight on the rush of fentanyl flowing through the country.

“What is happening in our country right now is fentanyl poisoning,” he stated. “I was at a town hall meeting, and I referred to it as fentanyl addiction. A mother then corrected me, as she should have, and she stood up and said, ‘No, sir, it is not fentanyl addiction. My son took one pill, and he is dead. It was fentanyl poisoning.’ She was right and I was wrong. I felt two inches tall and just horrible. But she is right.”

“It is fentanyl poisoning that is killing over 200 people every day. Today, 200 people will die as a result of fentanyl poisoning. Folks, if an airplane were to crash this morning and kill 200 people, we would stop every airplane in this country from flying until we figured out what happened. Yet we are losing 200 people every day and we continue on.”

Carter continued, identifying the sources of fentanyl as well as possible solutions.

“It is a twofold problem,” he noted. “The first problem is at the southern border and the amount of fentanyl that’s coming across. How do you stop that? You secure the border to stop that fentanyl from coming across.  The second problem is the amount of fentanyl that is in this country right now: there is enough fentanyl to kill over a billion people in the country right now.”

“Earlier this year, after we sent a letter to the FDA encouraging them to make naloxone available over the counter so you can go into the drugstore and buy it, they did that. That is the right thing to do. I carry it with me. I have it in my backpack wherever I go. If used quickly enough, it will reverse the effects of fentanyl. It ought to be in every medicine cabinet, in every emergency box in America, wherever you see a defibrillator, you ought to see naloxone.”

The Georgia lawmaker then brought up another important facet of American healthcare: timely access to medications and treatments.

“The national stockpiles are important,” he said, “particularly now as we are experiencing drug shortages. I have legislation that allows the states to have their own stockpiles. This is not to replace the federal stockpiles, but instead is to compliment them and supply, and help them.”“Pharmaceutical independence, just like energy independence, is necessary for national security. We have got to repatriate these pharmaceutical manufacturers back to our country. We’ve got to make sure that we have pharmaceutical independence.”

Following their remarks, the three lawmakers took a number of questions, including one about the toll fentanyl is taking on our country.

“Until we declare war on it, we’re losing this battle,” Joyce stated matter-of-factly. “You need to fight it at its source and the source, is the precursors coming in from China.

“One of the technologies they are employing is now you don’t even need a courier to go across the border. You could take a drone on the Mexican side and drop the package on the American side, and somebody could pick it up there and go and take off with it. And so, think about it — you started off with cannabis where you’d have bales, right? Then you went to cocaine, you had kilos and bricks, and now a bag of pills can kill 50,000 people … Until we’re willing to declare war on it and use all the resources and all the arrows in our quiver to go after this, we’re losing this battle.”

Johnson, concurring with his fellow Buckeye legislator, took a broader look at how deep the issues ravaging our country are rooted.

“It’s not just a healthcare issue,” he said. “It is a national security issue, and it spans industries. It’s not just pharmaceuticals. It’s not just the fentanyl issue. It is electronics. It is microtechnology.  It is stealing our intellectual property. That’s why we have a China Task Force looking at the whole spectrum of how to deal with China. Until we address what China’s doing in flexing their economic muscle, their military muscle, their diplomatic muscle, and all that they’re up to, until we have all three branches of government on the same page going after it, we’re going to struggle in solving this problem.”

To view the remarks of Johnson, Joyce, and Carter at yesterday’s breakfast discussion, please click the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.