Entering his fourth year representing the 4th District (including Needham) in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jake Auchincloss has been making himself available to discuss the past year and share some of his plans for 2024. From lowering prescription drug costs to preventing gun violence to improving the teaching of math, he has a wide range of issues on his mind.
Empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices last year was a “meaningful win” considering the divided Congress, said the congressman. It’s one of the three big issues he’s continuing to work on, noting that medical debt is still the leading cause of bankruptcy for Americans. The new legislation, which goes into effect in 2025, will cap out-of-pocket medication costs at $2,000 for people with Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs. It’s a positive step for many seniors in Needham he says, most of whom have a Part D plan. “That is impactful for a lot of people, particularly people with cancer diagnoses that can send people into a lot of debt.”
Auchincloss acknowledged the Medicare change is just part of the solution. He’s now working on legislation that goes after the drug pricing middlemen — the pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate prices for insurance companies with drug manufacturers — to capture more revenue for patients. “There’s $250 billion of value throughout the entire drug pricing industry that is being negotiated from manufacturers of these drugs, and is not ending up with patients.” He’s also working with fellow lawmakers to address the critical issue of shortages for generic drugs used for some cancer therapies and for ADHD, something a number of Needham families grapple with.
Gun violence prevention is another primary focus for Auchincloss in the coming year. He said he’ll be supporting Democrats whose “voice and vote” will help pass comprehensive gun safety legislation at the federal level. He noted the incremental progress made last term with the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, but said there is a lot more to do, including universal background checks, banning assault weapons and safe storage laws. “The leading cause of death for kids in this country now is guns. It’s totally unacceptable.”
Looking at local action to address climate issues, Auchincloss said that in addition to clean energy programs towns can undertake as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, he’d like to see greater awareness of things that directly benefit residents. “There’s a lot of good work to be done in raising awareness around those energy efficiency programs because they’re consumer level programs. People can get the tax credits.” These include credits for improving home energy efficiency, installing electric heat pumps, savings on installation costs for solar power and tax credits for clean vehicles and electric vehicle chargers.
Auchincloss was appointed to the Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party, where he said he has fought for increased investment in science and education because he sees the U.S. competitively lagging behind. “My biggest focus is on math. American 15-year-olds have gone backwards on math in the last five years,” he said. “If 15-year-olds in this country are not doing math well — and candidly, the numbers are pretty stark they’re not – we’re not out-competing anybody. That’s what I’m focused on. We need to hugely improve pedagogy around math. We need to fund math education, not just at the high school level but the K-5 level as well where it’s I think really impactful.”
In the coming year Auchincloss also intends to be a strong voice nationally in supporting the president’s reelection. “And that means helping Joe Biden tell the story of his first term,” he said. “I’m aiming to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. I will leave it all on the field to do that in 2024.”
The Observer’s Jennifer Tirnauer contributed to this story.