Healthcare

House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Greg Nash

House Democrats are preparing to reintroduce major legislation to lower drug prices ahead of President Biden’s unveiling of his American Families Plan, which could include the proposals.

House Democrats will introduce sections of their signature drug pricing measure, known as H.R. 3, which allows the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices, “as early as tomorrow,” according to a senior Democratic aide. 

The drug pricing provisions could also be included in the American Families Plan that Biden is expected to unveil next week, a large package also including child care, paid leave and other priorities. 

However, advocates and lawmakers were on guard on Wednesday over rumors that the drug pricing legislation might not make it into Biden’s package.  

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been a major proponent of including drug pricing in the package. 

“Lowering health costs and prescription drug prices for America’s families is a top priority of House Democrats with overwhelming bipartisan support among the American people, and we expect it to be part of the American Families Plan,” said Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The House drug pricing bill, which could be unveiled as soon as Thursday, will be silent, though, on how to spend the billions of dollars in savings. A debate is playing out among Democrats over whether to spend the savings on Medicare enhancements — such as adding vision, hearing and dental benefits and lowering the eligibility age — or on making permanent the extra financial assistance through ObamaCare in the earlier Biden relief package.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) earlier on Wednesday reintroduced legislation to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 50, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been making a similar push.

Such an expansion of Medicare would be a major addition to the Biden package, though, and some advocates have expected smaller coverage moves.

Still, Stabenow told reporters she has made the case to the White House to include her measure. 

“I would love to see that happen,” she said. “I’ve talked with folks at the White House.”

The drug pricing measure is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which argues it would harm innovation that leads to the development of new drugs.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, ahead of the coming drug pricing push, put out an alternative agenda earlier this month, with far less sweeping changes, and calling on insurers to do more to cover costs. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) pushed in a statement Wednesday to strengthen HR3 even further, including expanding the number of drugs subject to negotiation. 

“Consumers have to cut pills and skip prescriptions while Big Pharma refuses to cut into its massive profit margins,” Doggett said in a statement. “There are multiple rumors about attempts to weaken HR 3 even further.” 

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) added that getting the measure through the House and Senate, even with only Democratic votes, will be a challenge, but the push needs to be made. 

“Among my Demcoractic colleagues there’s some apprehension about taking on pharma,” he said.

Updated at 5:44 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Debbie Stabenow drug pricing Health care costs House Joe Biden Lloyd Doggett Nancy Pelosi Peter Welch prescription drug pricing Sherrod Brown Tammy Baldwin

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