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Politics Senate approval for drug pricing reforms will be uphill battle, advocates warn

22:25  17 september  2021
22:25  17 september  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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Efforts to push a proposal for direct drug pricing negotiations between the government and pharmaceutical companies over the finish line will face a steep uphill battle, liberal health reform groups warn.

Frank Pallone, Nancy Pelosi standing next to a man in a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

Big Pharma is a monopoly industry, according to David Mitchell, founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW.

“By definition, monopolies have unlimited power because if they need more money for campaign contributions or ads or lobbying, they can just raise prices," he said. "This is a very, very difficult uphill fight, and no one ever expected anything else.”

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House Democrats reintroduced H.R. 3, or the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, earlier this year after it first passed out of the lower chamber in the last Congress when the party enjoyed a greater majority. They approved it almost entirely along party lines, but the Senate didn’t take it up.

Its passage is under threat once again. Three Democrats, Reps. Scott Peters of California, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Kathleen Rice of New York, joined all of the GOP committee members in rejecting the measure on Wednesday, a move that tanked the policy. It also incensed outside groups fighting for the key provision to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate better prescription drug prices in Medicare, the federal health program for seniors, and make those prices available to employer-sponsored or privately purchased plans as well.

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“For [Rep. Rice] to go back on the campaign promise, flip-flop on her previous votes, was disappointing, to say the least,” Mitchell said, adding that she and her other two colleagues “both have a chance to fix it on the House floor … to do the right thing and to live up to their promises.”

Other liberal public policy advocates from groups such as MoveOn and Social Security Works have railed against the three members, who they argued have capitulated to pharmaceutical industry interests. For instance, Social Security Works and Organize for Justice commissioned a truck to travel throughout Rice’s district displaying a mobile billboard “to make sure seniors know that Rice is voting to keep their drug prices high.”

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Members, including Frank Pallone, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, pledged to collaborate with centrists on a new, “meaningful drug pricing reform that clears the U.S. Senate and gets sent to the President’s desk.” Advocates expect Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will pressure his colleagues in the upper chamber to work out a compromise.

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Already, Democratic Senators such as Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Tom Carper of Delaware, who both come from states in which the pharmaceutical industry has established a strong presence driving economic growth, have signaled their misgivings about the progressive push.

Carper told Stat earlier this week that the Democrats' goal of ushering in $600 billion in drug pricing savings to pay for the Biden administration’s other policy goals, such as expanding Medicare benefits to include dental, hearing, and vision coverage. The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, estimated two years ago that the reforms could save the government nearly $460 billion over a decade.

“Anytime options for larger savings get shelved, it just leads to the greater chance of deficit financing,” said Joshua Gordon, the Director of Health Policy for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “This is an interesting conundrum where the party … is split between wanting these extra savings and not wanting them.”

The House Ways and Means Committee, which shares jurisdiction over health policy, advanced the progressive drug pricing proposal this week to be included in the House’s iteration of the massive budget reconciliation package, which has a topline budget of $3.5 trillion. The three early defections spell trouble for the liberal faction, which cannot afford to lose those three votes.

House Democrat says he won't vote to advance party's drug pricing reforms

  House Democrat says he won't vote to advance party's drug pricing reforms California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters said Tuesday that he will not vote to advance his party’s legislation to allow direct drug price negotiations between the government and pharmaceutical companies, with several other centrists expected to follow. © Provided by Washington Examiner “I have proposed an alternative drug pricing reform model that will keep Democrats’ promise to lower out-of-pocket costs for medicines, in part by empowering the secretary of health and human services to negotiate prices,” Peters said on Tuesday. Peters and fellow Democratic Rep.

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Still, getting a slimmed-down version of the policy to President Joe Biden’s desk would be a win for the party and patients alike, said Gordon, who also spearheads the Health Savers Initiative, a joint project of the CRFB, policy reform advocacy groups Arnold Ventures, and the West Health Policy Center.

“I am of the camp that doesn't think that you can change the entire healthcare system all at once to get a huge chunk of savings,” he said. “I think we need to take as many incremental steps as possible, getting health savings along the way."

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Tags: Healthcare, News, Drug Policy, House Democrats, House Energy and Commerce Committee, Medicare, Medicare reform, Biden Administration, Ron Wyden, Tom Carper, Nancy Pelosi

Original Author: Cassidy Morrison

Original Location: Senate approval for drug pricing reforms will be uphill battle, advocates warn

Medicare drug prices: White House plan to lower drug costs supports letting Medicare negotiate prices .
The Biden administration is lending its weight to congressional Democrats' controversial push to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. © Photo Illustration: Shutterstock/CNN The measure is a key pillar of the White House's plan to lower prescription drug prices that was released Thursday and comes as the House starts tackling the issue as it crafts a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan. The Senate Budget Committee last month recommended that the plan, which would not need Republican support if it is passed through reconciliation, reduce drug costs for patients.

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