Senate Democrats push revised drug pricing plan as they prep larger Biden economic package
Senate Democrats plan to submit a revised proposal to lower prescription drug prices for a key procedural review in the coming days as they press forward with preparations for a vote on President Biden’s economic package.
Lawmakers have made some revisions to a deal to lower drug prices and plan to submit it to the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days for a review of whether it can pass muster with the chamber’s complicated rules for avoiding a Republican filibuster, a source familiar said.
The move is a sign of Democrats’ preparations for a vote on Biden’s signature domestic policy package, which will have lowering drug prices at the center.
The renewed push on drug prices was first reported by The Washington Post.
Importantly, though, there is still no deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on the other major pieces of the package: tax and energy policy.
Passing the legislation through reconciliation would bypass a Republican filibuster but require the support of all 50 Democrats in the evenly split upper chamber.
Manchin has long said he supports action on drug prices, so that issue has not been the major obstacle to a deal with him.
Schumer has told senators that if a broader deal can be reached, the package could get a vote “as early as late July,” the source familiar said.
There do not appear to be drastic changes to the drug pricing provisions that passed the House as part of its package in November, after a deal was reached with a group of moderate Democrats including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
That basic outline would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for a limited subset of older drugs, prevent drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation, and cap out of pocket drug costs for seniors on Medicare at $2,000 per year.
According to a summary obtained by The Hill, the revised proposal would begin the Medicare negotiations in 2023. It would also expand financial assistance to help low-income seniors with their Medicare drug premiums.
The revised measure also closes what Democrats worried was a loophole that could allow a secretary of Health and Human Services in a Republican administration to refuse to negotiate for lower drug prices as envisioned by the bill. The revised proposal requires that the Secretary negotiate for the maximum number of drugs allowed each year.
Asked about the revised drug pricing proposal, Sam Runyon, a Manchin spokeswoman, said: “Senator Manchin has long advocated for proposals that would lower prescription drug costs for seniors and his support for this proposal has never been in question. He’s glad that all 50 Democrats agree.”
Another key health care policy, to extend enhanced ObamaCare subsidies that provide extra help to people in affording their premiums, remains up in the air. Manchin has been publicly noncommittal on including it.