House reintroduces legislation to give Medicare power to negotiate lower drug prices

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The House is making another effort to let Medicare negotiate drug prices, but may find the same hurdles in the Senate. (Pixabay)

House Democrats are making a new effort to grant Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices and make those prices available to commercial plans.

The House Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees reintroduced on Thursday the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which the full House passed in 2019 but stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“The historic legislation will lower the cost of prescription drugs and build a fairer system of consumers,” according to the chairmen of the committees in a statement.

The legislation would enable the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate over prices and ensure the prices must be applied to commercial plans, according to a release on the bill.

It would also cap Medicare beneficiary out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 a year and requires manufacturers to give the federal government a rebate for any drug price that increases faster than inflation.

The bill would also reinvest any savings into the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration for breakthrough treatment and cures “as well as making investments in combating the opioid crisis,” the group said.

The legislation will likely face stiff opposition from Republicans, which opposed the first iteration of the legislation in 2019.

Republicans on the three committees released their own legislation aimed at lowering drug prices that does not give Medicare negotiating power but includes a cap on insulin costs for seniors in Part D.

Democrats now control the Senate but by a slim 50-50 margin. It remains unclear if enough Republicans would now support the legislation to clear the 60 votes needed to break a legislative filibuster.

But there has been bipartisan support in the Senate for legislation to create a cap on Medicare Part D out-of-pocket costs on drugs that rise beyond the cost of inflation.

The Trump administration did approve a rule to set up a demonstration model that pegs the prices for certain Medicare Part B drugs to an average price paid by several countries overseas.

However, the model was put on hold by the Biden administration after the pharmaceutical industry sued to halt it.

The pharmaceutical industry bashed the House bill, saying it would create barriers to the innovation of new products.

Steve Ubl, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement that the bill is the “same old divisive drug pricing proposal that will put more barriers between patients and their medicines.”