GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal

GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal
© Greg Nash

Rep. Larry BucshonLarry Dean BucshonLawmakers clash after Dem reads letter on House floor calling Trump supporters 'racist,' 'dumb' GOP balks at Trump drug pricing plan Overnight Health Care: Trump officials allow states to loosen ObamaCare coverage requirements | GOP lawmakers air concerns with Trump drug price plan | Dem single-payer fight shifting to battle over Medicare 'buy-in' | US life expectancy falls MORE (R-Ind.) on Friday criticized a drug pricing proposal President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE made last month, marking some of the first public resistance to the move from congressional Republicans.

Bucshon told The Hill that Trump’s proposal to lower some drug prices in Medicare by tying them to cheaper prices in other countries is too far of a move toward “price controls.”

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“It's not the direction that I would take,” Bucshon, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the issue, said. “I understand that we do want to get drug prices down but I think that any proposal that would lead to government price-fixing in that space is a pathway we don't want to follow.”

Trump’s move, announced in October, went farther in the direction of price controls on drugs than what Republicans typically support. Some Democrats praised his move, but cautioned that it did not go far enough.

But many Republicans could be hesitant to publicly criticize President Trump over the move, and some support it.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyDemocrats give Trump trade chief high marks Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law House panel approves bills on tax extenders, expanding tax credits MORE (R-Texas) said on Tuesday that he is still “assessing” the proposal, without praising or criticizing it.

Bucshon said other GOP lawmakers have concerns, too, without naming them. “I think a lot of people have concerns about it,” he said.

The pharmaceutical industry, which has long been a powerful force in Congress, strongly opposes the proposal. Steve Ubl, the CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said last month that the proposal is “imposing foreign price controls from countries with socialized health care systems that deny their citizens access and discourage innovation.”

Asked if Congress has a role in potentially overruling the proposal, Bucshon said, “I don’t know yet.”

“That's above my paygrade to think about that, but there's ongoing discussions between the administration and people on our committee at higher levels and we'll see where it goes,” he added.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: House lawmakers reach deal on robocall bill | Laid-off journalists launch ads targeting tech giants | Apple seeks tariff exemptions | Facebook's Libra invites scrutiny Bipartisan House lawmakers announce compromise anti-robocall bill Key senators release bipartisan package to lower health care costs MORE (R-Ore.) has not publicly commented on the specifics of the proposal, though he released a statement after it was announced praising Trump’s commitment on drug pricing in general terms.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks Horse abuse for ribbons and prizes has to stop MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate’s health committee, said last month he was “encouraged” by the proposal, making him a key supporter in Congress.

Bucshon helped lead opposition to a somewhat similar Medicare drug pricing proposal from former President Obama in 2016. The Obama administration eventually dropped the proposal in the face of opposition from Congress, the drug industry, and some doctors. 

Bucshon said he had not yet had a chance to discuss his concerns that the move would harm patients' access to innovative new drugs with the administration, but that the GOP Doctors Caucus, of which he is a member, would probably meet with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar after Thanksgiving.