PELOSI DRUG PRICE PLAN EXPECTED THIS WEEK
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to release her long-awaited plan this week to address prescription drug costs, according to congressional staff.
A draft summary of the proposal that circulated last week would allow the government to negotiate prices with manufacturers on 250 drugs and impose sweeping fines on companies that failed to participate. The negotiated price – which manufacturers say would be de facto price controls – also would extend to the prices of drugs sold through commercial insurance.
Two House committees plan to vote on Pelosi’s bill in the coming weeks, setting up a potential vote on the House floor by the end of October. In an apparent nod to President Donald Trump’s proposal to base physician-administered drug prices on an index of prices paid in certain European countries, Pelosi would copy that formulation for Medicare Part D drugs, too.
Trump so far hasn’t said – or tweeted – anything about the Democrats’ proposal. A White House statement last week praised Pelosi for offering the proposal but didn’t address specific policies.
A full-throated Trump endorsement of even the International Pricing Index portion of the speaker’s proposal could upend the political dynamic among congressional Republicans. But for now, House Republican leadership aides say they don’t expect any GOP lawmakers to support Pelosi’s plan.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is pushing for a floor vote on his committee-passed drug price legislation – in part by saying his proposal is more moderate than the emerging House Democrats’ plan. But Grassley’s bill, which would impose inflationary caps on price increases on Part D drugs, split committee Republicans and has drawn sharp criticism from other GOP lawmakers.
It’s doubtful Grassley’s bill as currently written could win the 60 votes needed for passage in the Senate, where aides say the mostly likely outcome is that bipartisan provisions get plucked from Grassley’s bill and other legislation and are added to a year-end spending and tax measure.
HEALTHCARE APPROPRIATIONS BILL TRIPPED BY POLICY RIDERS
Senators’ efforts to approve spending legislation – including funding key healthcare agencies and programs – to avoid a government shutdown stalled last week amid partisan skirmishes over policy riders involving abortion and immigration.
Senate appropriators last week postponed voting on legislation to fund the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) over the disputes. Separate legislation to approve spending for the Food and Drug Administration – which is approved separately from HHS’ budget – is expected to win Senate committee approval this week.
Despite the annual brinkmanship over spending, it’s unlikely the government will shut down Oct. 1, when fiscal 2020 begins. The House this week is scheduled to vote on stopgap legislation that would keep the government operating until at least November. That bill is expected to win congressional approval this month.
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE TO EXAMINE ANTI-COMPETITIVE PHARMACEUTICAL TACTICS
The House Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday titled “Profits Over Consumers: Exposing How Pharmaceutical Companies Game the System.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who chairs the panel, is a longtime industry critic, and she views the hearing as an opportunity to focus on what she calls “product hopping,” or manufacturers substituting modified versions of their drugs to prevent generic competition.
Although the Federal Trade Commission has authority to act against alleged anti-competitive tactics, lawmakers have proposed various legislative remedies to these alleged abuses.