McSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign

McSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign
© Greg Nash

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona McSally defeats primary challenger for GOP Senate nod in Arizona Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions MORE (R-Ariz.), facing a tough election campaign this year, on Friday unveiled the outline of a bill aimed at lowering drug prices that includes some breaks with GOP orthodoxy. 

McSally is putting a new focus on lowering drug prices, a top issue with voters, as she faces one of the most competitive races in the country this year. 

Earlier this month, she announced her support for a bipartisan measure from Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn 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 Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding MORE (D-Ore.) to lower drug prices. 

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Now, she is also unveiling her own proposal. 

The bill is noteworthy because it includes some ideas usually more associated with Democrats, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but only in limited instances where there is a lack of market competition after a patent expires but when the company still has a monopoly. 

Details of that proposal, which will be key for understanding its breadth, were not available yet on Friday. McSally’s office said legislative text will be available next week. 

Democrats have championed much broader Medicare negotiations, not just for when a patent has expired, but essentially all Republicans oppose the idea as undue government interference in the market. 

McSally’s bill would also allow the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada. That idea has support from a few Republicans, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE, who is taking initial steps to allow states to import cheaper drugs from Canada. 

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“I’ve heard from too many Arizonans who have to leave their prescriptions at the counter or ration their medications below what their doctor prescribed because of skyrocketing drug costs,” McSally said in a statement. “This is unacceptable. Americans should not be forced to choose between their medications and paying their rent.”

Jacob Peters, a spokesman for the expected Democratic Arizona Senate nominee, Mark Kelly, said McSally is trying to undue her past health care record, including voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Kelly, who leads McSally in recent polling, supports the more aggressive House Democrats' bill to lower drug prices. 

“Mark has spent months talking to Arizonans about bold solutions he supports to lower prescription drug costs, and it’s clear Senator McSally is trying to rewrite her years-long record on health care which includes voting to eliminate pre-existing conditions protections and failing to stand up to her big pharmaceutical PAC donors,” Peters said.