Drug Price Legislation Facing a Surprise Problem

Drug Price Legislation Facing a Surprise Problem

Last week Politico.com reported that major legislation meant to lower prescription drug prices has run into unexpected trouble in the House of Representatives.

It was always expected that few if any Republicans in the House of Representatives would support legislation to lower drug prices.  But it turns out that a group of moderate Democrats has now said they do not support the sweeping legislation that Democratic leaders in the House have proposed.

According to Politico, “At least 10 caucus moderates are signaling opposition to Democrats’ drug pricing negotiation bill — more than enough to potentially force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi into dropping the reforms from [President Biden’s] infrastructure legislation Democrats hope to pass along party lines. Pelosi can only spare two Democratic defections on partisan legislation because of the party’s slim House majority.”

The report also states that “House leaders have said they’re committed to moving forward on H.R. 3, citing polls showing strong bipartisan support for empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices. House Democratic leaders still see the infrastructure package as their best chance of passing major drug reforms, despite concerns raised by the moderate members, a senior aide said.

“House Democrats in the previous Congress, when they enjoyed a larger majority, passed H.R. 3 almost entirely along party lines. The legislation went nowhere in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans, and former President Donald Trump opposed the bill. But many Democrats campaigned on the bill last cycle, showcasing it as an example of what the party could achieve if it won full control of Washington.”

Because the Democratic majority in the House is so slim, lawmakers are approaching legislation with an eye on the elections next year.  Democrats, especially those facing tough reelection fights in swing districts, will face enormous pressure from the powerful drug lobby to oppose the bill.

Instead of the sweeping legislation supported by the House Democratic leadership they have indicated supported for more modest measures that already have some Republican support.  Those include things like capping Medicare enrollees’ out-of-pocket drug costs.

Again, according to the Politico report, “Several of the moderate Democrats expressing reservations about the drug pricing bill are the targets of a $4 million-plus campaign by the conservative American Action Network opposing the legislation. The group plans to air ads in the districts of more than 40 Democrats, slamming H.R. 3 as “Nancy Pelosi’s socialist prescription drug takeover plan” and warning it would ‘cancel new cures for the patients who need them and send American innovation overseas.’”

Last year the Senate was a bigger problem when dealing with passing legislation but there still may be hope this year for a bi-partisan bill authored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).  “The bill would cap seniors’ drug costs and penalize drugmakers for raising prices too fast — a provision that many Republicans have likened to price controls. It would save the government a projected $95 billion over a decade, far less than the $450 billion-plus under the House negotiation bill,” according to Politico.

Legislation to lower prescription drug prices is a top priority of TSCL’s this year and we continue to monitor things very closely and work to pass legislation that will lower drug prices in a substantial way.