GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal

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

Rep. Larry BucshonLarry Dean BucshonCongress must protect kidney disease patients during the COVID-19 pandemic NIH begins studying hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as COVID-19 treatment Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash MORE (R-Ind.) on Friday criticized a drug pricing proposal President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response 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 BradyBusinesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral Trump order on drug prices faces long road to finish line On The Money: US deficit hits trillion amid pandemic | McConnell: Chance for relief deal 'doesn't look that good' | House employees won't have payroll taxes deferred 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 WaldenTrump order on drug prices faces long road to finish line Ignore the misinformation: The FDA will ensure the safety of any COVID-19 vaccine Hillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video 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 AlexanderTrump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response Now is the time to renew our focus on students and their futures CDC says asymptomatic people don't need testing, draws criticism from experts 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.