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 GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity 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 McConnellPelosi, Schumer press for gun screenings as Trump inches away The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking First House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons 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 PelosiJohnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Mueller report fades from political conversation Five key players in Trump's trade battles 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 TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems 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.