Grassley announces opposition to key Trump proposal to lower drug prices

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa) on Wednesday announced his opposition to one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' 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 WydenOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Microsoft to provide free updates for voting systems running Windows 7 through 2020 Interior watchdog investigating political appointees' review of FOIA requests 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.