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Four Kaine Bills Included In Bipartisan Health Care Package, Including Bill To Raise Tobacco Age To 21

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, released the following statement on the bipartisan health care agreement announced Sunday. Four of Kaine’s bills were included in this comprehensive package: one to raise the tobacco age to 21, one to improve the nation’s public health data systems, one to expand health care to rural areas through telehealth, and provisions of a bill to increase patent transparency for biologic drugs.

“I’m excited that my reforms to improve our health care system were included in this bipartisan package, including my bill with Leader McConnell to raise the tobacco age to 21. Our nation is facing a youth e-cigarette epidemic, and this legislation is a critical step to help keep tobacco products out of kids’ hands. I’m pleased this package also includes my legislation with Senators Isakson and King to boost our ability to respond quickly to health threats like the recent outbreak of vaping-linked lung injuries. Countless people will benefit from the expansion of telehealth in rural areas, greater patent transparency for innovative treatments, and reforms to stop the surprise medical bills that have wreaked financial havoc on families. This is a good compromise, and I hope we’ll quickly pass it into law,” Kaine said. 

Kaine’s proposals were drawn from four bipartisan bills he introduced this year: 

·         The Tobacco-Free Youth Act, legislation Kaine introduced with Senate Majority Leader McConnell to raise the nationwide minimum age to buy all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. The bill passed the HELP Committee in June. The following Virginia organizations support the Tobacco-Free Youth Act: Virginia Rural Health Association, Prevention Council of Roanoke County, Piedmont Community Services Board, Drug Free MHC (Martinsville-Henry County), Fresh (Focus on Response and Education to Stay Healthy) - Franklin County, RAYSAC, One Care of SWVA, and Loudoun Youth, Inc.

·         The Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, bipartisan legislation Kaine introduced with Senators Isakson and King to modernize public health data infrastructure so clinicians, state health departments, and the CDC can work together more quickly and seamlessly to identify and respond to health threats like the current outbreak of vaping-linked lung injuries.

·         The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act of 2019 (ECHO 2019 Act), legislation Kaine introduced with Senators Schatz and Murkowski to increase access to health care services in rural areas by expanding the use of technology-based collaborative learning and capacity building models. 

·         Key provisions of the Biologic Patent Transparency Act, legislation Kaine introduced with Senator Collins to require companies to publicly disclose the web of patents that protect their biologics, making it easier for competitors to evaluate and plan for the development of biosimilar versions of these drugs. It would also discourage late-filed patents and require the FDA to regularly publish information in its “Purple Book” on approved biologics, such as patents, exclusivity, and biosimilarity. 

The agreement also includes reforms to tackle surprise medical bills and extends funding for community health centers and other key primary care programs for five years. A list of Virginia CHCs can be found here. It also includes as a number of other reforms to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic – like provisions improving age verification, increasing penalties on retailers selling tobacco products to those under 21, updating regulations on advertising and sales requirements for all tobacco products, preventing online sales of e-cigarettes to those under 21, including e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products banned in schools, and requiring labeling directly on e-cigarette devices.