Progressives push for changes to Pelosi drug pricing plan

Progressive House lawmakers are pushing for Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) bill to lower drug prices to go further. 

The lawmakers have not denounced the bill and praised its overall approach, but say that important changes need to be made to make it stronger before it goes to the House floor. 

Pelosi's measure, released Thursday, allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for up to 250 drugs per year and is one of Democrats' top priorities. It is expected to come to the House floor as soon as next month. 

But progressives, who have been pushing Pelosi towards a stronger approach for months, say that changes are crucial. 

The main complaint is that the measure sets a minimum of just 25 drugs to be negotiated each year. Progressives say all drugs, or at least many more, should be subject to negotiation to lower the prices. 

"We need to expand the number of drugs, it can't just be a minimum of 25," said progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). "It needs to cover the vast majority of drugs."

Pelosi met with the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Thursday, a meeting aides described as amiable. Pelosi said that she is open to changes as the measure works its way through the committee process. 

While Republicans denounce the far-reaching bill as "socialism," many progressives said it does not go far enough. 

"It's much better than where it was, but it's not as good as it should be," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a progressive leader on drug prices. 

He pointed to both increasing the number of drugs and making sure that the launch prices of new drugs coming onto the market are brought down in a stronger way.

"I think that it is the start of a negotiation," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus. 

Jayapal said it is a "huge victory" that Pelosi dropped her previous idea to use an outside arbiter to help set the price of a drug, something that progressives warned was cumbersome and too weak. 

But she said only having negotiation for a minimum of 25 drugs is "a big concern for us."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a star among progressives, said she is open to supporting the bill, but said improvements should be made. 

"I think there's enough here that we can punch up to support," she told The Hill. "And I think what we saw was certainly better than we expected."

"I think it's a pretty decent first draft and we'll see how we can really punch it up in committee," she added.