Klobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs

Klobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBottom line Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP MORE (D-Minn.) said she thinks the Obama administration missed a key opportunity to lower drug prices when it passed the Affordable Care Act.

In an interview with CNN that aired Friday, the 2020 presidential candidate criticized the influence of the pharmaceutical industry during ObamaCare negotiations.

“I would have liked to see this be part of the Affordable Care Act. But it wasn't, in part, because they were working with the pharmaceutical companies on the premiums issue,” Klobuchar said. “They were working with them on getting support for the Affordable Care Act because they knew that pharma could stop that bill in its tracks.”

Hospitals, doctors, insurers and even the medical device industry all took payment cuts as a way to pay for the law’s massive expansion of health coverage.

But the pharmaceutical industry remained relatively unscathed, and nothing in the law allowed Congress or the White House to take action on lowering drug prices.

Tackling rising prescription drug prices is a bipartisan issue in Congress and on the campaign trail, as public polling suggests the issue is a top concern among voters. Democrats and Republicans broadly agree there’s a problem, but are divided over the solutions.

Klobuchar is one of more than a dozen Democrats currently running for president and jockeying to show they can lead on drug pricing reforms.

Klobuchar said she and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Is Trump encouraging the world's use of national security as stealth protectionism? Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support MORE (R-Iowa) are committed to fixing what she said was something that was neglected by previous administrations of both parties.

“I see it as a missed opportunity, but now we must move forward,” Klobuchar said. “I think both parties have been guilty of not bringing these [bills] up and there’s one party in charge right now, and that’s the Republican Party, and I want to see them bring these bills up for a vote, and I think we can pass them.”

As chairman of the Finance Committee, Grassley is trying to shine a spotlight on drug pricing. Last month, the CEOs of seven major drug companies were grilled by committee members about pricing practices.

Grassley and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse Republican offers bill to create 'return to work bonus' On The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (D-Ore.), the Finance Committee's ranking member, also invited five pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to testify next month. Lawmakers have been just as critical about the role of PBMs, which negotiate drug benefits with manufacturers for insurance plans and employers, as they have with drug manufacturers.