WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today released the following statement ahead of tomorrow’s committee markup of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli’s nomination to serve as Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
Our health care system is broken and dysfunctional. We spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation, while over 60,000 Americans die every year because they can’t get to a doctor when they should. Despite our huge health care expenditures, our life expectancy, especially for working families, is below most other wealthy nations – and is declining. Further, the taxpayers of this country provide over $45 billion a year to the NIH for research and development that leads to prescription drugs and treatments. Yet, we pay the highest prices in the world for the drugs U.S. taxpayers help to develop and one out of four Americans cannot afford to buy the drugs their doctors prescribe.
Dr. Monica Bertagnolli is an intelligent and caring person, but has not convinced me that she is prepared to take on the greed and power of the drug companies and health care industry and fight for the transformative changes the NIH needs at this critical moment. I intend to vote NO at her confirmation hearing on Wednesday. I have not asked any member of the Committee to follow my lead. This should be a vote of conscience.