In a 230-192 vote, the House passed legislation to reduce prescription drug costs, a bill renamed the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act to honor the recently deceased Maryland congressman. The bill received a last-minute and drastic improvement when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to proposals from the Congressional Progressive Caucus to increase the number of drugs Medicare could negotiate prices for, and to protect employer-sponsored insurance plans from drug price hikes.
The proposal originally allowed for Medicare to negotiate prices on 35 drugs, but thanks to the CPC intervention, it’s now a minimum of 50 drugs. Prices would be capped to 120% of what they sell for in other wealthy nations, and those prices can be negotiated down further. The lower prices would also apply to private insurance. And if a drug company refused to negotiate, it could be hit with up to a 95% tax on revenue for the drug in question.
“What I hear most often is not impeachment, it’s not what’s on the front page of The Washington Post, it’s ‘What are you going to do about the cost of our prescription drugs?'” said Rep. Kim Schrier, a freshman from Washington state and the only female physician in the House, as well as a type 1 diabetic. “And this bill is an answer to my constituents.” Democrats also pointed out that they were fulfilling another key campaign promise from someone else.
”It’s exactly what President Trump promised on the campaign trail,” Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan said. And it is, but that doesn’t mean Trump will support it, and it certainly doesn’t mean Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will allow it to get anywhere near the Senate floor.
That’s despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office says it would lower drug costs by about 50% on the negotiated drugs and would also save Medicare $456 billion over 10 years. The bill would return those savings to expand Medicare benefits to include hearing, dental, and vision care. This would be a massive win for seniors. But McConnell and Trump aren’t going to let it happen. That’s one more reason to take the whole shebang of elected government back in 2020.