Dem letter calls for rolling back move targeting drug companies

Dem letter calls for rolling back move targeting drug companies
© Greg Nash

Two House Democrats are circulating a letter calling for rolling back a change that shifted costs onto drug companies — a change that was supported by many other Democrats, who called it a rare victory over the pharmaceutical industry.

The letter from Reps. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyTo combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-Ill.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderTrump's roller coaster August: a timeline House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (D-Ill.) calls for rolling back a change from February’s budget deal that shifted more costs onto drug companies as part of closing a gap in Medicare coverage known as the “donut hole.”

Undoing that change is a major priority for the pharmaceutical industry.

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Kelly and Schneider argue in the letter, obtained by The Hill, that by shifting Medicare costs onto drug companies and off of insurers, the change removed a beneficial incentive for insurers to try to keep costs down.

But other Democrats oppose their letter, saying that the February provision should be maintained, not rolled back.

“This was a rare victory against pharma and this is their counterattack,” said Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchSenators call for more automakers to join emissions deal with California House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Overnight Health Care: Oversight chair plans to call drug executives to testify on costs | Biden airs anti-'Medicare for All' video | House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted kids MORE (D-Vt.), who is a leading advocate of lowering drug prices.

“I strongly disagree with them,” Welch said of Schneider and Kelly. “The letter is basically proposing to undo the gains that we made in the budget deal.”

Schneider and Kelly’s letter calls to “restore the reasonable balance of cost-sharing liability within the donut hole.”

“We must ensure that the cost-sharing burden amongst stakeholders is designed to maximize beneficiaries’ ability to access necessary medications and incentivize stakeholders to keep program costs down,” they write.

The letter is still being circulated among lawmakers, so it is unclear how many will end up signing it beyond Schneider and Kelly.

The pharmaceutical industry pushed to roll back the change in the government funding bill in March, but lawmakers ended up keeping it the same, which many Democrats counted as a victory.

Democratic leaders have also criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE’s recent drug pricing plan for being too soft on drug companies.

Schneider and Kelly’s letter also calls for addressing a separate issue, a “cliff” that will raise Medicare enrollees out of pocket costs starting in 2020, due to expiring provisions of law.

Kelly and Schneider both said in statements that they had been hearing from patients in their districts concerned about this cliff.

But on the separate issue of undoing the shift of costs onto drug companies, aides said the goal was simply to “start a conversation” with leadership.

“It’s important to note that the letter contains no policy prescriptions,” said a spokesman for Kelly.