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 GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns 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 signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal 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 PelosiPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief 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 TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally 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.