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  • Washington Highlights

    Houses Passes Drug Pricing, Health Coverage Bill

    Jason Kleinman, Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations

    The House of Representatives May 16 passed, 234-183, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987) to reduce prescription drug costs and increase health insurance coverage. The bill was passed mostly along party lines with five Republicans voting in support.

    The package includes seven bills that were previously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee [see Washington Highlights, April 5]. While the measures to reduce prescription drug costs were advanced with bipartisan support, Republicans opposed the efforts to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152) and expressed concern about packaging all of the bills together.

    In a May 16 floor statement, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said, “There is simply no reason to combine bipartisan bills to lower drug costs with partisan bills to bail out Obamacare.”

    Prior to the House vote, the White House released a May 14 Statement of Administrative Policy noting that if the bill were presented to the president in its current form, his advisors would recommend he veto it due to the inclusion of proposals “that would restrict access to healthcare coverage for many Americans and impede efforts to reduce inefficient spending on healthcare programs.”

    The package includes the following:

    • The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act of 2019 (CREATES Act, H.R. 965) to establish a process by which generic manufacturers could request that the FDA authorize them to obtain sufficient quantities of samples for testing;

    • The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 (H.R. 1499) to make it illegal for brand-name and generic drug manufacturers to enter into agreements in which the brand-name drug manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer to keep a generic equivalent off the market;

    • The Blocking Act of 2019 (H.R. 938) to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discourage parking of 180-day exclusivity by a first generic applicant;

    • H.R. 1010, a bill to overturn the final rule on short-term limited duration health insurance plans;

    • The State Allowance for a Variety of Exchanges Act (SAVE Act, H.R. 1385) to provide states with $200 billion in federal funds to establish state-based marketplaces;

    • The Expand Navigators’ Resources for Outreach, Learning, and Longevity Act of 2019 (ENROLL Act, H.R. 1386) to fund the navigator program for the federally facilitated marketplace at $100 million per year; and

    • The Marketing and Outreach Restoration to Empower Health Education Act of 2019 (MORE Act, H.R. 987) to require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct consumer outreach and enrollment educational activities for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces;

    The Congressional Budget Office estimated the package would reduce the federal deficit by a net $97 million from fiscal year 2019-2029, including a $48 million increase in mandatory spending and a $145 million increase in revenue.

    While the Senate is not likely to take up this version of the bill, it will continue its work to reduce drug prices, including an expected mark-up of the CREATES Act by the Judiciary Committee in June.