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  • Washington Highlights

    Democrat, Republican Senators Release Plans to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

    Jason Kleinman, Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations

    Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate both introduced their own plans to lower prescription drug prices on June 22.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) outlined his priorities, noting, “This paper lays out a series of principles that demonstrate that making prescription drugs more affordable while encouraging innovation and scientific breakthroughs are not mutually exclusive. Pricing reforms across the supply chain can support the future of American innovation by creating the right incentives to develop new, truly valuable treatments, while also ensuring American families can afford them.” He added that these principles build on bipartisan proposals that the committee has already passed and that he will continue to seek input from members of the committee and other senators.

    The key principles included in the document are:

    • Provide Medicare the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
    • Restructure Medicare Part D to reduce out-of-pocket spending.
    • Require drug manufacturers to pay rebates when drug prices increase faster than inflation.
    • Ensure that drug pricing reforms should extend to all Americans — not just Medicare beneficiaries — including those covered by employer and commercial health plans.
    • Tailor drug pricing policies to protect small biotechnology companies that take on a disproportionate share of the risk of research and development.

    The Senate Finance Committee advanced legislation to address several of these issues last Congress [refer to Washington Highlights, July 26, 2019].

    Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) also reintroduced their drug pricing plan, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act. In a joint press release, Crapo stated that “access to affordable prescriptions remains one of the most persistent challenges facing our nation, and these treatments are only effective if patients can afford them. The Lower Costs, More Cures Act is a comprehensive, market-based approach to leveraging competition, flexibility and transparency to bring affordable drugs to patients without stifling innovative growth and research.”

    Among other provisions, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act would address prescription drug prices by creating an annual out-of-pocket cap of $3,100 for Medicare Part D enrollees, reducing beneficiary cost sharing before the out-of-pocket cap is reached, and modernizing payments for Medicare Part B drugs delivered in a doctor’s office.

    Democratic and Republican House leaders previously introduced their drug pricing plans earlier this Congress [refer to Washington Highlights, April 23].