aamc.org does not support this web browser.
  • Washington Highlights

    Ways and Means Committee Advances Drug Pricing Legislation

    Jason Kleinman, Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations

    The House Ways and Means Committee Oct. 22 advanced the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R. 3), 24-17, along party lines. The bill, introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and several Democratic leaders, would grant the Health and Human Services Secretary the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices in an effort to drive down their high costs [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 20].

    Similar to the Oct. 17 markups in the other House committees of jurisdiction [see Washington Highlights, Oct. 18], the Oct. 22 Ways and Means markup included a lengthy partisan debate around the policy and process of the drug pricing bill.

    Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) highlighted the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that Title 1 of H.R. 3 would save $345 billion over six years. He also mentioned the positive impact of lower drug prices to patients, noting, “Taken together, these changes will have wide-ranging, positive effects. When patients have access to affordable prescription drugs, they make fewer hospital visits, and in turn, that provides significant long-term savings to our nation’s overall health system. At the end of the day, it will make individuals and families healthier.”

    Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas), referring to H.R. 3 as the “Fewer Cures for Patients Act,” voiced his opposition to the bill, stating, “This is legislation that will ensure lost lifesaving cures, lost jobs, and a nation that no longer leads the world in medical innovation. It’s unfortunate that we are spending valuable time on a bill that is dead on arrival in the Senate and stands no chance of becoming law.”

    In addition to H.R. 3, the committee passed three bills to direct the savings from the drug pricing negotiations to new dental, vision, and hearing benefits for seniors in Medicare. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also advanced these bills during its Oct. 17 markup.

    House Democratic leadership has indicated that they plan to bring the package to a vote by mid-November.