CHN: Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Costs Passes House

The House on Dec. 5 passed (230-192) legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Two Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and those negotiated prices would be available to Americans with private insurance as well. It would levy steep taxes on drug manufacturers who refuse to accept a Medicare price keyed to what’s paid in other economically advanced countries. It would also create a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, the bill would expand the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) and tribal home visiting programs.

Families USA called the bill “the most significant step Congress has taken to combat high prescription drug prices.” Savings generated from the bill would be used to expand Medicare benefits to cover dental, vision, and hearing and, according to the Child Welfare League of America, to pay for important provisions related to child welfare, foster care, and home visiting programs. The bill is likely to die in the Senate, however, and the White House has issued a veto threat against it.

The White House has, however, indicated its support for a Senate bill also intended to lower drug prices. Sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (S. 2543) previously passed the Senate Finance Committee with support from both Republicans and Democrats. The Senate bill does not grant Medicare negotiating power, but it would limit what seniors have to pay out of their own pockets for prescription drugs. It also would require drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they hike prices beyond the inflation rate.

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