One of the disappointments in President Biden’s new social safety-net proposal, called the American Families Plan, was that it didn’t contain any mention of reining in the price of prescription drugs.
The American Families Plan, the second part of Biden’s expansive “infrastructure” agenda, includes programs aimed at boosting access to child care, higher education and paid family leave.
Initial reports suggest that Biden and his aides did not want to pick a fight now with the powerful prescription drug industry, which is riding high in public opinion after producing COVID vaccines in record time. They worry that the industry’s impressive lobbying clout could endanger the rest of the program.
But it appears an even bigger reason is division among the Democratic majority as to how to spend the money that prescription drug cost reduction would save Medicare.
The disagreement seems to be over enhancing Medicare benefits or boosting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
According to one report, this particular disagreement is like what happened in the 1980s and ’90s, when generations were pitted against each other in a sometimes-ugly way. Younger Americans, worried about rising rates of the uninsured, accused Medicare beneficiaries who wanted better benefits of being “greedy geezers.”
A law Congress passed in 1988 that would have boosted Medicare benefits and added a cap on catastrophic expenses caused a backlash when Congress decided wealthier seniors should pay for it themselves via added taxes. Seniors angry that younger people would not help foot the bill rebelled, and the entire program was repealed in 1989 before it ever took effect.
This disagreement, coupled with a major increase in lobbying efforts on the part of the big drug companies, be part of the fight over reducing drug costs this year.
The pharmaceutical industry keeps turning up the dial on lobbying, setting massive new spending records in its intensive effort to influence Congress and the Biden administration.
The industry increased its lobbying spending by 6.3 percent in the first quarter.
That's compared to the first quarter of 2020. Drug and health product manufacturers, along with their national association, spent a combined $92 million to lobby the federal government from January through March, according to the website Open Secrets.
That puts the industry on track to break its spending record for the second year in a row. Not only that, but its first-quarter spending was more than double what was spent by the second-highest-spending industry, electronics companies.
There are currently 1,270 registered lobbyists for pharmaceuticals and health products — more than two lobbyists for every member of Congress.
We tell you that in order to help you understand what we’re up against when we fight for lower drug prices.
Your continued support is urgently needed to help us win the battle his year.