Legislative Update for Week Ending September 13, 2019

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 13, 2019

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is expected to unveil a bill, perhaps as early as next week, that would allow the federal government to negotiate the prices of hundreds of drugs in Medicare that have little or no alternative drugs competing with them for use in treating certain ailments.

According to the Washington Post, the legislation would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to directly negotiate prices on the 250 drugs that pose the greatest total cost to “Medicare and the U.S. health system that do not have at least two competitors. That would include some insulins, cancer treatments and specialty drugs. Those negotiated prices would then be available to all consumers, not just Medicare beneficiaries, according to the bill summary.”

The negotiated price would make sure that patients in the U.S. would not pay more than patients in other countries pay for those same drugs.  Governments of other countries often negotiate lower prices for their citizens.

However, even though the bill has not yet been introduced there is great skepticism that it would be taken up by the Senate if it should pass the House.  Republican members of Congress have been staunchly opposed to government negotiation of drug prices despite the fact that President Trump has floated his own version of such a policy.

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As Congress and the President react to the anger of the public regarding high health care costs, including the price of prescription drugs, by proposing various legislative solutions, drug makers have launched an all-out effort to combat the legislation.

According to published reports, in the first six months of this year drug manufacturers have given 30 Senators who are up for re-election next year nearly $845,000, and they've give a total of almost $4 million in congressional campaigns contributions.

According to Kaiser Health News, “Most of the biggest donations in the first half of 2019 have gone to Republicans, who control the Senate and tend to be more reluctant to restrict drug-makers. And, even those who do not serve on committees that oversee the industry or represent states with significant industry ties have benefited from drug-maker cash this year.”

However, the largest single recipient so far this year is Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, where many of the drug companies have their corporate headquarters.

And to be clear, both Democrats and Republicans receive large contributions from the political action committees of the drug firms.

Unfortunately, members of Congress are not the only ones who are the recipients of drug-makers' money. There are some “seniors” groups that are partially or totally funded by pharmaceutical companies.  That, of course, brings into question the reliability of their advocacy for seniors.

It is important for you to know that TSCL takes no corporate funds.  Our funding comes only from supporters like you and that means we fight only for you – not for corporate interests.

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As we wrote last week, the clock is ticking on Congress to pass the spending bills necessary to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2020 before the year begins on October 1.  And, as of today (Friday) there are only 11 working days left in September for them to complete their work.

To date, the House has passed ten spending bills while the Senate has yet to pass any.  As a result the decision was made by Senate leaders to pass a few large spending bills lumping various departments together rather than trying to pass 12 separate bills.

With so little time left in the fiscal year it is highly unlikely they will finish their work on time, much less hold hearings or pass legislation that would benefit Social Security and/or Medicare Recipients.

For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.