Healthcare

Biden to deliver ‘forceful’ call for Congress to lower drug prices

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President Biden on Thursday will deliver a “forceful” call for Congress to act to lower prescription drug prices, a White House official said, as the president shines a spotlight on a key part of Democrats’ upcoming spending package.

In a speech on lowering drug prices Thursday morning, Biden will “deliver a forceful call to action for Congress to act by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and passing his Build Back Better Agenda,” the official said.

Lowering drug prices will be a key part of Democrats’ anticipated $3.5 trillion spending package, and can help pay for the measure. Senate Democrats said earlier this week they planned to have “hundreds of billions” of dollars of savings from lowering drug prices in the package, though they did not specify an exact number.

But allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices provokes fierce resistance from the pharmaceutical industry, as well as congressional Republicans. Biden’s backing is therefore significant in putting some presidential muscle into the fight.

Biden had notably left lowering drug prices out of his proposed American Families Plan earlier this year, despite urging from congressional Democrats, raising some questions about his commitment to the issue.

In a fact sheet, the White House said Biden would call for Medicare to be able to negotiate prices for “a subset of expensive drugs that don’t face any competition in the market.” Medicare negotiators would have a “framework” for what constitutes a “fair” price for a drug, the fact sheet said. Biden also will call for limiting price increases to the rate of inflation, and capping seniors’ out of pocket costs in Medicare.

Those principles are similar to proposals from House and Senate Democrats. But there are important details that remain to be filled in.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is currently trying to craft a proposal that can get all 50 Senate Democrats on board, including moderate members. If the measure has to be scaled back to satisfy moderates, it means less savings to help pay for new health care spending.

Drug companies have garnered some good will from providing COVID-19 vaccines to consumers for free, an issue Biden will address.

“He will note that while the pharmaceutical companies have done enormous work by developing life-saving COVID-19 vaccines alongside the United States’ best scientists, crippling drug prices are unacceptable,” the White House official said.

Tags Joe Biden Ron Wyden

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