Legislation to Control Drug Prices Possible This Year?
Given the above story about how Medicare users pay so much more for drugs than Medicaid users, could this be the year we finally win?
According to an article in The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper that covers legislative matters in Congress, it just might happen.
Last year the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), passed major drug legislation that would have allowed the government to negotiate directly with the drug companies, thus bringing the prices of drugs down. The major drug companies, and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), opposed the legislation and would not allow the House-passed legislation to even be considered.
There was also a bipartisan proposal from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that gained support in the Senate but it did not include price negotiation, and again, McConnell refused to bring the bill to the floor in an election year.
However, price negotiations could be included later this year in a reconciliation bill, a fast-track budgetary move that only needs 51 votes to pass the Senate and cannot be blocked using a filibuster.
The Democrats are likely to use reconciliation to move President Biden’s COVID-19 relief measure through Congress while sidestepping a GOP filibuster.
The new effort could be part of a second package later this year and TSCL will closely examine the legislation once it is finally developed to see if it accomplishes our goals and whether we can support it.
As TSCL supporters well know, Congress has not been able to accomplish significant legislative reform to the convoluted drug pricing system even though anger about high drug prices has been rising for a long time.
With reconciliation, Democrats can pass a bill without any Republican votes so they are hoping to get a much more comprehensive bill than the Grassley-Wyden one.
However, the pharmaceutical industry has spent billions of dollars over the years fighting this kind of legislation and passing it will not be easy.
According to The Hill, the legislation would, “… completely change the way the U.S. pays for drugs, saving the federal government more than $456 billion over 10 years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“The bill has been fiercely opposed by Republicans and the branded pharmaceutical industry, which would likely lose revenue if the bill passed, leading to 40 fewer new drugs coming to the market in the U.S. over the next two decades, according to the CBO estimate.
“But Democrats arguing for the change are pointing to rising costs of brand-name drugs and insurance plans that increasingly require patients pay more money toward their own care, forcing them to ration insulin and other drugs. They also note that H.R. 3 includes $10 billion for biomedical research.”
We want to reiterate here that TSCL is a non-partisan organization and we work with any member of Congress and both political parties when they support legislation that we believe is in the best interest of America’s seniors.