House Democrats change drug pricing bill in bid to address progressive concerns

House Democrats change drug pricing bill in bid to address progressive concerns
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House Democratic leaders are adjusting their signature bill to lower drug prices in an effort to address progressive concerns that a previous version of it was not strong enough.

The underlying bill will allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for up to 250 drugs per year, and the savings will apply to people in private insurance plans as well as Medicare. 

The changes released Wednesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would increase the minimum number of drugs that must be negotiated from 25 to 35, and would require negotiation on some newly-launched drugs if their prices are more than the median U.S. household income. 

House progressives have been pushing to make the bill stronger, and the number of drugs and how to address launch prices of new drugs were both major objections that they had made, even as the move from 25 drugs to 35 drugs is not considered a major change. 

The measure is expected to pass the House later this month or early next month, though there are still concerns from some lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Biden signals he's willing to delay Trump trial MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to kill the bill in the Senate, calling it “socialist.”

Progressives had a range of reactions to the changes. 

A representative for the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) had no immediate comment on the changes.

But Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyFreshman GOP lawmaker apologizes for Hitler quote Newly sworn-in Republican lawmaker condemned by Holocaust Museum after Hitler quote 150 House Democrats support Biden push to reenter Iran nuclear deal MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the progressive caucus and an ally of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDivide and conquer or unite and prosper Trump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday Roe is not enough: Why Black women want an end to the Hyde Amendment MORE (D-Calif.), appeared to be won over by the changes, as she released a statement endorsing the bill on Tuesday night. 

Other progressives are still not satisfied, including Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettAn attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation Capitol Police say reports of officer's death are wrong Congress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act MORE (D-Texas), who has been one of the most outspoken in pushing the bill in a more progressive direction. 

“Congressman Doggett is still vigorously pursuing substantial improvements to strengthen the bill,” a Doggett spokesperson said. 

Doggett is pushing for a range of changes, such as negotiation on more drugs and including protections against drug price spikes for people on private insurance plans and the uninsured. 

Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, a progressive group, said the changes move in the right direction. 

“We’re very proud, progressives are proud, of making H.R. 3 better,” he said. “It’s a significant down payment in the fight against pharma.”

Even before the changes, the Congressional Budget Office found the bill would save Medicare $345 billion over seven years. 

He said his group supports the bill but would also support additional improvements. 

On the other side of the spectrum, Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocrats seize on GOP donor fallout Lobbying world Newspaper editorial board apologizes for endorsing Republican over support for Texas lawsuit MORE (D-Fla.), co-chairwoman of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, declined to comment on whether she supports the bill. 

“That bill hasn’t even gotten a markup in my committee [yet],” she said.