Caution for Democrats: Voters care more about drug pricing than impeaching Trump

Caution for Democrats: Voters care more about drug pricing than impeaching Trump
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As House Democrats press on with their impeachment inquiry into President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE, it is essential that their party remains mindful of the promises and policies they campaigned on in 2018.

Though the impeachment inquiry will continue to dominate the media cycle and Washington politics for months to come, congressional Democrats would be wise to remain focused on legislative priorities and accomplishments because, simply put, these will be the issues that Americans take to the ballot box in 2020.

Indeed, as the impeachment process unfolds, Congress is working on a major policy initiative that will directly impact Americans nationwide, as it entails critical alterations to drug pricing and health care policy.

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House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Klobuchar: 'I have seen no reason why' Hunter Biden would need to testify Johnson dismisses testimony from White House officials contradicting Trump as 'just their impression' MORE (D-Calif.) recently broke away from the impeachment chaos in Washington and traveled to Seattle to promote the House Democrats’ ambitious — and notably progressive — bill on drug pricing.

“This is a matter of health security, financial security, quality of life of our country, and it is something we’ve been trying to do for a long time,” Pelosi said in a statement at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center.

However, the House Democrats’ progressive drug pricing plan raises many substantive problems, as it seeks to fundamentally alter, and likely damage, many of the already successful structures that patients, and specifically seniors, rely on today.

The bill would lead to access restrictions for America’s patients and stifle innovation, threatening the cutting-edge treatments and cures that American companies have been able to produce, saving the lives of countless people around the globe.

The core and concerning components of the legislation include the government directly negotiating the prices of drugs, which would mean that manufacturers could not set their own price for their product. Further, the bill seeks to force drug makers to pay rebates if the price of their product goes above the inflation rate.

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To be sure, a critical component of the Democrats’ 2020 policy narrative must and will be health care reform. This drug-pricing reform bill is a step in the wrong direction for Democrats, who already are struggling to unify their party around a cohesive health care policy and message.

If Democrats truly want to address problems associated with costs, and own this election narrative, they must reshape their focus to address the abuses happening in the drug-pricing supply chain.

For instance, pharmacy benefit managers are major cost drivers, increasing the cost of drugs by negotiating large rebates without passing the savings on to the patient. If rebates are going to be a tool to lower drug costs, they should be applied to the actual patients’ out-of-pocket expenses, and there simply does not need to be a middle-man.

Put another way, the Democrats’ current drug plan will do patients more harm than good. At a time when House Democrats are fighting to re-deliver on their electoral majority — especially in suburban districts that flipped blue in 2018 — the party must focus on patient-centric, center-left policies that save Americans money while ensuring the coverage and prescriptions they need.

Further, given the divisiveness surrounding impeachment, House Democrats should work to create legislation that actually has a chance of passing in the Senate, unlike this notably progressive drug-pricing plan and many of the other bills that House Democrats have put forth this year.

“These members need to show they’ve made a difference up here. It’s not just passing something out of the House,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) told the Los Angeles Times. “You want a win? You’ve got to show you actually made a difference.”

While the nuances of drug policy are not salacious front-page stories, Americans will feel the direct impact of health care policy and drug pricing more than they will with the impeachment — but likely not the removal — of the president.

As the impeachment process unfolds, Democrats must refrain from making the same mistake that they made in 2016. Thus, the party needs to push a positive narrative that is centered on pro-growth reforms and substantive accomplishments, and is not merely a negative campaign against the president.

Ultimately, if the 2020 election devolves into another election on Donald Trump’s personality, Democrats risk losing their 2018 congressional gains, and potentially even the White House once again.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”