GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal

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

Rep. Larry BucshonLarry Dean BucshonGOP 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 GOP lawmakers air concerns with Trump drug pricing move in meeting with health chief MORE (R-Ind.) on Friday criticized a drug pricing proposal President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral 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 BradySmaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive Key author of GOP tax law joins Ernst and Young Lawmakers beat lobbyists at charity hockey game 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 WaldenThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans 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 AlexanderThe next step for justice reform: Ending the ban on federal Pell Grants for eligible students behind bars Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: Survey finds 1 in 10 ration medicines to lower costs | Senate Dems call for hearing on Trump abortion rule | Trump health chief backs needle exchanges | Outgoing FDA chief keeps heat on e-cig maker 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.