Durbin Visits Erie Family Health Centers To Highlight Efforts To Lower Prescription Drug Costs And Address Health Care Workforce Shortages

CHICAGO  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today visited Erie Family Health Centers to discuss efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs and address workforce shortages in the health care industry.

“The hardships on patients and health care providers from the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate the importance of places like Erie Family Health,” Durbin said. “From helping their patients access discounted medications to providing quality care, Erie continues to be a beacon of hope for its community. I’ll continue fighting for lower drug costs and investments in the pipeline of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to ensure Illinoisans across the state continue receiving the care they deserve.”

“Erie Family Health demonstrates its dedication to patients over profits everyday by providing quality medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare to all, regardless of ability to pay because healthcare is a human right,” said Congresswoman Delia Ramirez (D-IL-3). “This is undeniably life-saving, essential work on the northwest side of Chicago. We know that 71% of Erie Family Health patients are Latine and nearly half of their patients get healthcare services in Spanish. It’s critical that our healthcare provider pipeline reflects the needs of our community. Through programs like the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), Erie Family Health has been able to recruit more healthcare providers, which is essential in the face of a healthcare provider shortage. I look forward to partnering with Senator Durbin and our colleagues in Congress to keep fighting for lower prescription drug pricing and holistically addressing healthcare deserts so every person in Illinois and the country has meaningful access to the care we need to be well.”

“As a leading community health center that ranks #1 in Illinois for quality, Erie Family Health Centers provides primary healthcare to anyone regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay,” said Lee Francis, MD, MPH, President and CEO of Erie Family Health Centers. “We are grateful to have Senator Durbin as a strong advocate for prescription drug affordability, the 340B Drug Pricing Program, and community medicine workforce development programs that ensure places like Erie exist to care for the more than 30 million people across our country who rely on them.” 

Of the 34 million patients with diabetes in America, approximately eight million require daily insulin. The Nobel Prize for discovery of insulin was in 1923, and the patent was sold for just $1. The insulin market is dominated by three companies/products and the price of each has increased more than six-fold in the past two decades. Whereas a vial of insulin can cost up to $350 in the United States, the exact same vial can be bought in Canada for approximately $40. 

To help fight rising prescription drug costs, Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act(IRA) in August 2022. This historic legislation caps the cost of insulin at $35 per month under Medicare, caps annual out-of-pocket spending for drugs at $2,000 for seniors, enables Medicare to negotiate for lower prices with Big Pharma, and penalizes manufacturers who hike drug prices higher than inflation. 

More than 3.6 million people in Illinois live in areas with too few doctors, making it difficult for patients to access quality health care. At the root of the issue is the high cost of education, with the average cost of medical school of $200,000, and too few residency training slots for physicians. Additionally, in 2021, nursing colleges rejected 92,000 qualified applicants due to enrollment constraints, primarily the lack of nurse faculty and training opportunities.  

In the American Rescue Plan, Durbin secured $1 billion for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship and loan repayment awards to recruit more doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral health providers to underserved rural and urban areas. Erie Family Health Centers has relied upon the NHSC program to recruit and retain clinicians.