Conservative group launches ad campaign against Democratic drug pricing plan

Conservative group launches ad campaign against Democratic drug pricing plan
© Greg Nash

A conservative advocacy group is launching a seven-figure ad campaign across dozens of House districts to rally lawmakers against Democratic efforts to allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices.

The $2.5 million in radio, digital and mailed ads from the American Action Network (AAN), first shared with The Hill, call on Congress to reject what the group says are “government price controls” placed on Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, called Part D. 

The ads are meant to head off an attempt by Democrats in the House to pass legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices. They will air in 35 House GOP districts. 

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The measure, which Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' On The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' MORE (D-Calif.) and House leadership have been working on for months, has at times sparked tensions between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party. 
Progressive House Democrats have been worried the plan will not go far enough in taking on drug companies and bringing prices down. The bill was amended over the summer to address frustrations by progressives with what they said was a lack of transparency and opportunity for input into the plan.
 
Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is a top priority for House Democrats.
 
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE has made lowering drug prices a key priority ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign. He also called for Medicare to negotiate drug prices during his 2016 campaign before backing off the idea. 

Any deal between Democrats and Trump would be very hard to achieve, however.

House Republicans are largely opposed to Medicare negotiating drug prices, and conservatives generally believe the current Medicare Part D marketplace has enough competition to keep costs low. 

The ads from AAN argue that government involvement would lead to reduced access to life saving medications and prescription drug rationing.

“Key liberals in Congress are pushing a socialist agenda for America and it starts with seniors losing choice and access to the most effective drugs in Medicare,” says one radio ad. “Their plan means prescription drug rationing, government price fixing and bureaucrats controlling your access to new treatments.”

Conservatives have also criticized legislation offered by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBooker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-Iowa) that is backed by the administration. It includes a provision that would impose a limit on drug price increases in Part D.

The legislation would force drug companies to pay money back to the government if their prices rise faster than inflation.

Grassley has said that his bill should be much more palatable to the right, because it could stop Trump from negotiating with Pelosi.