Vulnerable House Democrats call for Medicare drug price negotiation in reconciliation plan
A group of some of the most vulnerable House Democrats sent a letter to Democratic leaders urging them to include sweeping drug pricing reforms in the upcoming reconciliation bill, which could help pay for the $3.5 trillion package.
The 15 lawmakers from “front-line” districts at risk in 2022 told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to embrace giving Medicare the ability to negotiate prices, and then use the savings to bring down costs across the health care system.
The measure would save hundreds of billions of dollars, which could also be used to pay for parts of the reconciliation package.
“Empowering Medicare in this way and making these negotiated prices available to the private sector will bring down the cost of prescription drugs not just for seniors, but also for individuals and families across America,” the group, led by Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), wrote.
“With public support of Medicare price negotiation of prescription drugs at nearly 90%, it is time to take action,” they wrote.
Lowering prescription drug prices is a top priority for Democrats, but there are internal divisions over just how far to go.
H.R. 3, the legislation championed by Pelosi and Democratic leadership allowing the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices, received only two Republican votes when it passed the House in 2019, and it is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.
At the same time, a group of 10 Democratic centrists have expressed concerns that the legislation goes too far, and would hurt manufacturers’ ability to develop new drugs. They want a smaller, bipartisan measure.
Drug price reforms were also left out of President Biden’s American Families Plan and his American Jobs Plan, despite pressure from many congressional Democrats, though he has called for Congress to pass drug pricing legislation this year.
Democrats are pressing ahead to try to include drug pricing in the reconciliation package, though the details remain unclear as lawmakers are trying to work out a deal between progressives and moderates on how sweeping the drug pricing legislation will be.
Lowering prescription drug prices will help provide an important source of funding for the package but the exact amount of the savings is also unclear.
Pelosi’s H.R. 3 would save roughly $456 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a stat the Democrats touted in their letter.
“We can and must use these savings to reinvest in our health care system,” they wrote.
Senate Democrats led by Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are crafting their own alternative to the Pelosi legislation. The bill is expected to be less far-reaching, though still will have some element of government price negotiation.
“I’ve made it clear, with more than 50 million older people on Medicare, the government ought to be in a position to negotiate with them for the best possible deal,” Wyden told reporters this week.