Harris' drug prices plan targets tax breaks for pharma advertising

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, called for eliminating a tax break pharma companies get for direct-to-consumer ads and endorsed drug reimportation. (U.S. Senate)

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., would get rid of the tax credit that pharmaceutical companies get for direct-to-consumer advertising and would tax companies that set drug prices above a "fair price."

Harris, one of the front-runners in the Democratic presidential primary, revealed her drug prices plan during an AARP forum Tuesday in Iowa on healthcare. She said her proposal would allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to set fair prices on drugs based on benchmarks and “look at how drugs are charged in other countries, compare rising rate of cost to inflation and bring prices down.”

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Harris didn’t elaborate on whether this practice would extend to Medicare or commercial drug plans. HHS is already exploring a proposal to tie prices paid for Medicare Part B drugs to prices paid overseas.

The senator also endorsed the popular Democratic reform of the reimportation of drugs from Canada.

Sanders defends 'Medicare for All' against Biden attacks

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., emphasized that the transition to Medicare for All won’t reduce benefits to seniors but expand them.

Sanders’ speech delivered Wednesday took a swipe at attacks from his presidential primary opponent former Vice President Joe Biden who said that seniors could lose benefits in the transition to Sanders’ system.

“Despite what you are hearing about Medicare for seniors being weakened, the truth is the opposite,” he said during a speech at George Washington University. “It will be strengthened by providing benefits to seniors that they currently do not have.”

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Sanders said in the first year of the four-year transition to Medicare for All, which expands Medicare to all Americans, seniors would get coverage for hearing aids alongside dental and vision benefits.

“The last I heard the ability to hear, the ability to see and the ability to have teeth in your mouth is a healthcare issue,” Sanders said.

Warren takes on Medicare-for-All transition

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gave her own argument for the transition and benefits of Medicare for All during a separate AARP forum Friday in Iowa.

“A significant feature of Medicare for All is that it pays for long-term care in a facility and long-term care at home,” said Warren, who is vying alongside Sanders for progressives on the 2020 primary trail. “It is about healthcare from our babies to our seniors so that nobody has to go bankrupt for a medical problem.”

Warren’s plan, like Sanders' proposal, calls for eliminating private insurance.