Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices

Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced a bipartisan deal Tuesday on legislation to lower drug prices. 

The Finance Committee will mark up the legislation on Thursday.  

{mosads}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 McConnell (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 Pelosi’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 Trump 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.

Tags Charles Grassley Chuck Grassley Congressional Budget Office Donald Trump Medicare Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi prescription drugs Ron Wyden

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