Conservative group targets Trump in Medicare drug pricing debate

Conservative group targets Trump in Medicare drug pricing debate
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An influential conservative group will spend $2.6 million on ads attacking a perennial Democratic proposal to let Medicare bargain for drug prices that has been recently trumpeted by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE.

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The American Action Network is dropping one of its biggest campaigns of the year, pushing back against the longtime Democratic priority with direct mail and advertisements in 53 districts.

Empowering Medicare to negotiate on drug prices has become a centerpiece of both Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst MORE’s and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersElection analyst says Biden could face uphill battle attracting small-dollar donors Gillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race Biden's sloppy launch may cost him MORE’ campaigns in a cycle in which rising healthcare costs have been in focus.

But in a surprising twist for the GOP, the controversial idea has also been backed by the party’s front-runner.

The American Action Network, which is aligned with GOP leadership, argues all three candidates have misled the public about Medicare’s power to lower drug prices in a marketplace that is already competitive.

“The government ‘negotiating’ drug prices may sound like a good talking point, but it’s terrible policy for seniors,” the group’s president, Mike Shields, wrote in a statement, which was shared first with The Hill.

Democrats have for a decade argued the federal government should be allowed to use bargaining power when setting drug prices for Medicare, the nation’s largest buyer of prescription drugs.

They point to the GOP-led bill in 2003 that created the Medicare Part D program, which officially bans the Department of Health and Human Services from setting pricing.

Conservatives, like the American Action Network, argue that Medicare’s drug-pricing is already a competitive process. They also pointed to research from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

“Although cost savings might be possible in selective instances, the impact on Medicare’s overall drug spending would likely be limited,” the CBO wrote in a 2007 report.

The rising cost of prescription drugs has been a force on the campaign trail for every candidate. The nation’s spending on drugs jumped 13 percent in 2014, according to the most recent government data available, and is expected to continue rising.

Trump sent shockwaves through conservative healthcare circles in January when he backed Medicare drug negotiation, which he claimed could save $300 billion.  

"We don't do it," he said, according to an Associated Press report. "Why? Because of the drug companies."

His campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.