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Frustrated with Trump, Dems introduce drug pricing bill

Frustrated with Trump, Dems introduce drug pricing bill
© Greg Nash

Several high-profile Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill to let Medicare negotiate drug prices, saying they are frustrated the measure hasn’t received a full-throated endorsement from Trump.

"Well, the campaign is over,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders thanks Iowa voters for giving momentum to progressive agenda Live coverage: Gillum clashes with DeSantis in Florida debate Miami Herald endorses Gillum for governor MORE (I-Vt.) said at a press conference. “He’s president now. We need him to join us in taking on the pharmaceutical industry."

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The new legislation, introduced in both the House and the Senate, would allow the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate directly with drug companies in an effort to lower prices for those in Medicare’s prescription drug program — and release a public report after each negotiation period.

It’s a policy some Democrats have long supported and Republicans oppose. But on the campaign trail, Trump suggested he favored it.

In January 2016, Trump told a crowd in Farmington, N.H., that the policy would save billions.

“We don’t do it. Why? Because of the drug companies,” Trump said, according to The Associated Press.

Democrats saw an opening for common ground.

Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDems zero in on Trump’s alleged conflicts of interest Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue On The Money: Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia | Treasury releases guidance on 'opportunity zone' program | Maxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack MORE (D-Md.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDems damp down hopes for climate change agenda Electric carmakers turn to Congress as tax credits dry up One Vermont Republican wins statewide nomination in six races MORE (D-Vt.) met with Trump on March 8 and gave him draft language of the bill unveiled Wednesday. The pair sent two subsequent letters to Trump on the matter but didn't hear back, and expressed their disappointment in a third letter made public on Wednesday.

“The truth is that we have made every possible effort to collaborate with you in good faith for the better part of this year,” said Cummings, reading from the third letter at the press conference. “Unfortunately, our efforts were met with radio silence.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House in a readout of the March meeting said Trump “expressed his desire to work” with Cummings to make drug prices more affordable. The readout notably omitted mention of letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, instead referring to Food and Drug Administration reforms and a reduction of the “regulatory burdens” on manufacturers as a way to increase competition.

When asked on Wednesday if the bill has a chance at passing Congress without Trump’s support, Cummings said “it has to have Trump’s support, no doubt about it.”

A powerful drug industry trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), pushed back on the new legislation, saying it would let the government decide what medicines patients can get, undermine competition and lead to price controls.

Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act by kballuck1 on Scribd

Welch, Cummings letter by kballuck1 on Scribd