Vote Unlikely on Drug Price Bill

The public wants lower prices but the politics may favor the status quo
Robert Calandra

Americans don’t agree on much these days. But when it comes to prescription drugs, 8 out of 10 voters and both Republicans and Democrats, say the cost is unreasonable.

Those same voters say that lowering the cost of drugs should be one of Congress’ top priorities, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. But even with such wide public support, the chances of Congress passing significant drug pricing this year appear pretty grim, according to Kaiser.

One issue is that House Democrats and Senate Republicans each have different legislation that addresses the issue.  The House bill, which uses strategies endorsed by President Donald Trump, would pass sweeping legislation to lower drug prices.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that he would not allow the House bill to be introduced.  The main sticking point with the lower house's legislation is that it would enable federal health officials to negotiate the prices of as many as 250 of the most-costly drugs. While the president has endorsed that tactic, most Republicans are philosophically opposed to it because of the level of government intrusion into the market.

Joe Grogan, Trump’s chief domestic policy advisor, has urged Republicans to vote on a bill drafted by Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican from Iowa and chair of the Finance Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the committee’s ranking Democrat. But the bipartisan bill will probably never come to a vote, Kaiser reports, because many Senate Republicans are uneasy about the provision that would limit price increases on drugs covered by Medicare to be no highert than the rate of inflation.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 19-9 in July to send the Grassley–Wyden bill to the full Senate for consideration, according to Kaiser. But McConnell may be wary about forcing Republican senators to take a stand on the legislation during an election year.