Grassley announces opposition to key Trump proposal to lower drug prices

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTax season could bring more refund confusion Graham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial Social security emerges as latest flash point in Biden-Sanders tussle MORE (R-Iowa) on Wednesday announced his opposition to one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE’s signature proposals aimed at lowering drug prices.

Grassley told reporters that he opposes a plan that Trump announced in October to lower the prices Medicare pays for certain drugs by tying them to lower prices paid in other countries, an idea known as the International Pricing Index.

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The move from Trump was a sharp break from traditional GOP free-market ideology on drug pricing, closer to what Democrats usually propose.

Grassley had long held his fire, saying he was waiting for the administration to formally propose a regulation. But on Wednesday, Grassley said he was not going to wait any longer.

“I don't think that this administration's approach on international pricing is going to be to the benefit of the adoption of and research for modern drugs,” he said.

“You've heard me say in these meetings before that I'm going to wait until there's a real proposal to put out before I take a stand, but I think I've studied it long enough now that I'll stick by what I just told you,” he added.

There has been some speculation that the Trump administration will not ever finalize the proposal, which has not yet gone into effect, and is instead using it as an incentive for industry to come to the table with other ideas.

The opposition from Grassley, a powerful chairman in Trump’s own party, makes it even harder for the administration to move forward.

The pharmaceutical industry, a powerful lobbying force, is also fiercely opposed to the idea.

Grassley is working on his own proposal to lower drug prices along with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTax season could bring more refund confusion Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the committee.

Grassley told The Hill earlier on Wednesday that he thinks the deal is “about 85 percent” complete but that “there’s a couple issues that are more difficult” that still need to be addressed.

All of the Republican senators on the Senate Finance Committee met with Grassley on Wednesday morning to discuss drug pricing, in addition to trade.

Grassley said the meeting was used to “outline kind of the parameters … We didn't make any decisions.”

Grassley and Wyden’s package is expected to be less far-reaching than Democratic proposals like Medicare negotiating drug prices, which Grassley opposes. But it is expected to include a restructuring of the incentives for insurers and drug companies in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, known as Part D, as well as changes to incentives in Part B that critics say drive up the price of drugs in doctors offices.   

“You've got to have meaningful steps to rein in high drug prices and the chairman and I are talking about this every day, sometimes several times a day, and the focus is on getting it right,” Wyden said Wednesday.