Pelosi: Drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said that lawmakers are discussing including legislation to lower prescription drug prices as part of the next major legislative package, centered on infrastructure.

“One of the considerations that members are discussing is whether we have aspects of HR 3, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now legislation,” Pelosi said during an event hosted by the Democratic group Protect Our Care, when asked about including health care priorities in the coming infrastructure package.

That measure would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices, and cap prices for drugs based on the prices paid in other countries.

It is attractive as Democrats draft their next major package not only because it is a long-held Democratic priority, but because it saves significant amounts of money, about $450 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office, that could be spent on other priorities.

“If we were able to do that we could save almost a half a trillion dollars,” Pelosi said.

While Democrats could use the fast-track procedure known as reconciliation to bypass a Republican filibuster in the Senate, there is still some discussion about whether the infrastructure package would be bipartisan. Republicans fiercely oppose the drug pricing legislation, arguing it would harm innovation that creates new treatments.

“Now, we want the bill to be bipartisan,” Pelosi said. “Usually infrastructure has not been partisan. We have to make decisions as we go along. But we would be missing an opportunity if we did not include lowering the cost of prescription drugs.”

“In the midst of a pandemic, Dems should embrace medical innovation, rather than kill it with price controls added [to] Pelosi’s partisan infrastructure push,” Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee tweeted in response to Pelosi’s comments.  

Pharmaceutical companies will also fiercely fight a drug pricing push. 

On another health care front, Pelosi downplayed the chances that a public option to compete alongside private insurers would be included in the coming package.  

“Obviously it is something that we want to do,” she said when asked about one flavor of that idea, lowering the eligibility age for Medicare. “I want a public option, I don’t know that we get that in this bill, but this is an ongoing conversation.”

Still, she said: “Everything is on the table, let me just put it that way.”

Tags drug pricing Elijah Cummings Infrastructure Nancy Pelosi Speaker
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