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Lower Hopes for Bills to Lower Drug Prices

Yuval Rosenberg

Legislation to lower prescription drug prices may be derailed this year by intraparty differences and the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Armour reports:

“The White House, eager for a win as other drug-price initiatives have sputtered, is pushing Congress to compromise, but a plan in the Democratic-controlled House has become saddled with demands from progressives who say it doesn’t go far enough, and a bipartisan Senate bill is also on shaky ground, with some Republicans objecting to price controls.”

Progressive Democrats continue to push for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug plan to allow the government to negotiate prices on all drugs in Medicare rather than a subset of at least 35 and as many as 250 of the most expensive medicines. Their objections reportedly mean that a full House vote on Pelosi’s bill won’t take place until at least next month.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he won’t bring up Pelosi’s bill for a vote and a separate, bipartisan bill from Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden has run into opposition from some Republicans who object to what they see as government price controls. Vulnerable Republican incumbents up for reelection next year have mostly expressed concerns about the bill or declined to back it, The Hill reports. Those senators include Cory Gardner of Colorado, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

“Senators who haven't supported the bill are highlighting the bind they face,” The Hill’s peter Sullivan writes. “On the one hand, the bill has the support of President Trump, and lowering drug prices is a popular issue with voters. But on the other hand, supporting the bill breaks with GOP orthodoxy and invites a backlash from both conservatives and the pharmaceutical industry.”

The bottom line: If lawmakers can find a way come together on a legislative package, a Senate impeachment trial could still create timing and logistical challenges in trying to get anything passed. So the odds of Congress getting something done on drug prices this year is growing slimmer.

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