Centrist House Democrats unveil rival proposal to lower drug prices

Centrist House Democrats unveil rival proposal to lower drug prices
© Greg Nash

A group of centrist House Democrats on Friday said they planned to introduce a scaled-back bill aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, an alternative to the more sweeping measure backed by House Democratic leaders. 

The move, led by Reps. Scott PetersScott H. PetersDrug companies on verge of sinking longtime Democratic priority Failed drug vote points to bigger challenges for Democrats Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda MORE (D-Calif.) and Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderGOP ramps up pressure on vulnerable Democrats in spending fight Drug companies on verge of sinking longtime Democratic priority Failed drug vote points to bigger challenges for Democrats MORE (D-Ore.), illustrates the concern among a handful of more moderate lawmakers about the far-reaching measure to lower drug prices, known as H.R. 3, that House Democratic leaders have included in their $3.5 trillion package now moving through committees.  

A summary of Peters and Schrader’s bill states that it would “preserve innovation” from drug companies. The pharmaceutical industry has attacked H.R. 3 as threatening innovation. 

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The summary also states that it has policies with “bipartisan support,” in addition to lowering drug prices. 

The measure is also cosponsored by centrist Reps. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceDrug companies on verge of sinking longtime Democratic priority Failed drug vote points to bigger challenges for Democrats Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda MORE (D-N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyHouse passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit GOP ramps up pressure on vulnerable Democrats in spending fight Drug companies on verge of sinking longtime Democratic priority MORE (D-Fla.) and Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in Drug companies on verge of sinking longtime Democratic priority Failed drug vote points to bigger challenges for Democrats MORE (D-Calif.). 

The bill was first reported on Friday by The Wall Street Journal

While the new rival bill highlights the concerns of some moderates in the House with H.R. 3, that legislation was already widely expected to be altered before the final version of the bill, given the need to satisfy Senate Democratic moderates. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenA Democratic plan to wipe out independent contractors Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Want a clean energy future? Look to the tax code MORE (D-Ore.) is working on alternative legislation that is expected to be less far-reaching, though that measure is not finalized. 

The center of H.R. 3 is allowing the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices, with a cap on prices based on what other wealthy countries pay for drugs.  

The Peters-Schrader bill allows negotiation only in much narrower circumstances, when older drugs in a certain part of Medicare, known as Part B, no longer are protected by exclusivity but still do not face competition.

The bill also includes other measures, like capping what seniors in Medicare must pay out of pocket for drugs, that have wide support and are included in some form in H.R. 3 as well.