Healthcare

Biden spending framework leaves out Medicare negotiating drug prices

The framework of a deal on President Biden’s social spending package unveiled on Thursday does not include allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, leaving out a major Democratic priority.

A senior administration official told reporters there were not enough votes among Democrats to pass the policy.

“[President Biden] has spent countless hours over the last several weeks discussing this topic with members of Congress and trying to secure a deal,” the official said. “But at the end of the day, there are not yet enough votes to get something across the line that will deliver what the American people need and expect on prescription drugs.”

The absence of drug pricing in the package is a major failure for the party on one of its key campaign pledges, and an area where leaders like Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had repeatedly vowed to take action.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), as well as a small handful of House Democrats, were seen as obstacles to passing the policy.

As rumors circulated about drug pricing provisions being dropped or watered down on Wednesday, vulnerable House Democrats urged their party to keep a strong provision in, noting they campaigned on it.

“All of us would love to be able to go back to our districts and say, ‘Hey this is something we campaigned on that we delivered,'” said Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), speaking of other front-line members in competitive districts.

Now, because of objections from a small minority of Democratic lawmakers, the drug pricing provision is being left out.

The proposal is extremely popular with voters. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll this month found that 83 percent of the public support allowing the government to negotiate drug prices.

Lawmakers had expressed hope in recent days that they would be able to find a compromise on a narrowed version of the drug pricing measure. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in recent days he would not accept a “fig leaf” on drug pricing and would insist on a strong measure.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also made lowering drug prices a top priority for the package.

Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) voted against a drug pricing proposal in committee last month, warning it would harm innovation from drug companies to develop new treatments. They pushed an alternative, much scaled-down measure.

The absence of drug pricing measures in Biden’s new spending framework is a major victory for the pharmaceutical industry, which fought hard against the proposal with lobbying and a seven-figure ad buy, and has long been a powerful force in Washington.

Drug companies warned that regulation of their prices would harm their ability to do research and bring new treatments to market.

Tags Bernie Sanders budget reconciliation package Democratic spending plan Drug prices Joe Biden Kathleen Rice Kurt Schrader Kyrsten Sinema Medicare Nancy Pelosi Ron Wyden Scott Peters Susan Wild

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