NPR reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., rolled out her long-anticipated plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs on Thursday. It is a priority shared by President Donald Trump, fueling a glimmer of hope that there is a deal to be had on the issue ahead of the upcoming 2020 elections.
Pelosi’s proposal calls for the federal government, through the health and human services secretary, to negotiate annually prices for the top 250 most expensive drugs on the market that don’t have at least two competitors. The price determined by the negotiations would be available to all purchasers, not just Medicare beneficiaries.
The amounts would be pegged to the costs of the same drugs in other countries, which are generally much cheaper, under an “international price index.” It would also levy steep fines — starting at 65% of the gross sales of the drug — on drug companies that refuse to engage in negotiations and limit how much drug costs can go up. “This steep, escalating penalty creates a powerful financial incentive for drug manufacturers to negotiate and abide by the final price,” the proposal states. The plan calls for reinvesting the taxpayer money saved in negotiations back into drug research at the National Institutes of Health.
The proposal also includes a $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries and the disabled.
Committees are expected to take up the legislation as soon as next week, with the goal of passing it out of the House by the end of the year. There are only 34 legislative days left in 2019.
Pelosi’s proposal includes ideas that President Trump has indicated in the past he could support to help drive down drug prices for Americans. If the speaker and the president could come to an agreement, Democrats believe he could bring enough Republicans on board to get it through Congress and signed into law.
The president supports a drug price index, and the administration is reviewing a possible executive order to that end. “Why should other nations like Canada — why should other nations pay much less than us? They’ve taken advantage of the system for a long time, pharma,” Trump told reporters in July.
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