Divisions in the Democratic House caucus over healthcare continued to deepen this week when the party’s leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, informed members that drug pricing legislation will be designed to go easy on big pharma.
The new proposal, which Pelosi worked out with President Donald Trump, appears aimed at incremental change to the drug pricing system rather than the kind of relief health activists have been clamoring for over the past year.
“It creates this hocus-pocus process that isn’t going to lower prescription drug prices,” John Hassell, the national director of advocacy for advocacy group the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told HuffPost. “It’s going to nickel and dime it on the sides.”
A Thursday evening in-depth HuffPost report on the bill lays out the legislation’s scope—such as it is. The plan calls for allowing the secretary of health and human services to negotiate with drug companies for lower drug prices. Should the companies and secretary fail to reach an agreement, the Government Accountability Office is empowered to take over and set a price that aligns with how much the drugs go for overseas.
The HuffPost report comes more than two weeks after a Mother Jones piece that featured progressives wondering why there was even a debate over whether to “throw down” on drug prices.
“We’re at the point where a deal is getting made on drug pricing, and this bill is the one that is progressive, bold, and has a huge amount of support,” an aide to a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) told Mother Jones. “This is the moment to throw down.”
The plan may be dead on arrival anyway—reporting from The Hill Friday claims that the current feud between the president and the speaker may be fatal to the proposal. In a statement, Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly said that the speaker would continue fighting for drug pricing changes.
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“House Democrats are determined to advance bold, tough legislation to lower prescription drug prices, and we are moving forward no matter what this White House does,” said Connelly.
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