Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices

Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices
© Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes State cites 38 people for violations in Clinton email review Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Russian, Iranian accounts trying to interfere in 2020 | Zuckerberg on public relations blitz | Uncertainty over Huawei ban one month out US ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship MORE (D-Ore.) announced a bipartisan deal Tuesday on legislation to lower drug prices. 

The Finance Committee will mark up the legislation on Thursday.  

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The measure imposes a new limit on price increases in Medicare's prescription drug program, called Part D, forcing drug companies to pay money back if prices rise above inflation. The measure also caps Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs. 

Some Republican senators have objected that the limits on price increases are too close to price controls, which Republicans have long opposed on drugs. 

The vote in committee on Thursday will be closely watched to see how many Republican senators defect and vote against the measure.  

The Congressional Budget Office said the measure saves taxpayers $85 billion in Medicare over 10 years, and beneficiaries will save $27 billion in out of pocket costs. 

"A senior citizen who’s paid into the system their entire life shouldn’t have to cut pills in half to be able to make it to the next refill," Grassley and Wyden said in a joint statement. "The time to act on prescription drug prices is now."

Lowering drug prices is seen as a rare area where bipartisan legislation could make it into law this year, but the package faces a tough road ahead.

If a substantial number of Republicans vote against the measure in committee on Thursday, that will detract momentum and lower the chances that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump urges GOP to fight for him Senate Dems signal they'll support domestic spending package Trump's top picks for Homeland Security chief are ineligible for job: reports MORE (R-Ky.) will bring the measure to the full Senate.

House Democrats are also working on a rival effort to lower drug pricing, which Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Four companies reach 0M settlement in opioid lawsuit | Deal opens door to larger settlements | House panel to consider vaping tax | Drug pricing markup tomorrow Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails Trump urges GOP to fight for him MORE's (D-Calif.) office said would be unveiled in September. That effort, for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, will be hard for Republicans to support, though Pelosi's office hopes that if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE endorses the bill, it will boost GOP support in Congress.

Whether Trump, who has railed against high drug prices, endorses the Senate deal is another key factor. Trump's support could help ease the path among GOP senators with concerns.

Updated 11:10 a.m.