Democrats fear Sinema still not here with a prescription drug plan
In particular, Peters said, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) did not deviate from his stance nearly a month ago opposing current drug price reforms that are the subject of a debate.
“Senator Sinema is not yet in favor of a prescription drug proposal,” he said in an interview this week. “And I’m trying to get her to come to me because I honestly think, I think it would be just good to put that problem aside.”
Sinema spokesman John LaBombard refuted Peters ‘characterization of the senators’ position, saying Sinema “is carefully considering various proposals around this issue” in its “direct negotiations” on the $ 3.5 trillion package. . Sinema generally supports the idea of lowering drug prices, but declined to say what proposals, if any, she would support.
Still, the inability to reach consensus on the issue of prescription drug prices is just one of the many hurdles that remain for Democrats as they rush to meet their new October 31 deadline. While a number of other Democrats are known to be reluctant to support the drug pricing provision, Sinema’s support is badly needed in the 50-50 Senate. To achieve a breakthrough, Biden’s team are increasingly involved in shaping the talks as they decide how many programs to cut and which to remove entirely from the plan.
For months, the White House had relied heavily on leaders on Capitol Hill to iron out disagreements over crucial prescription drug policy. But in recent weeks, he has actively reached out to moderates in the House and Senate for their support and has emphasized the importance of drug pricing in meetings with lawmakers. Peters said the White House had recently committed him more directly to drug prices and that “we understand where the other is best.”
White House officials have also taken note of the unlikely deal between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) on allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and see the provision as one of the many top priorities in the package, according to a source close to the thought of the administration. Cutting prescription drug costs is one of the most popular elements of Biden’s plan and many Democrats see it as key to their success midway through 2022 and beyond. This is all the more true as earlier promises to lower the age of Medicare and create a public insurance option have been sidelined.
Many lawmakers, including Peters, say they are convinced they can still find common ground between the radical HR.3 bill favored by progressives that would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies, and the version pushed by the House centrists who would negotiate downward. price for a much smaller set of drugs. Members argue that a watered-down drug negotiation bill is perhaps the best they can hope for given Democrats’ tight voting margins and the opposition onslaught from the pharmaceutical industry.
“There will still be [drugs] it will stay at the higher price, but that’s how the compromise is worked out, ”said Rep. Susan Wild (D-Penn.), a frontline member active in the policy talks. “I’m okay with that if that’s what we need to get through.” But I still cringe at the idea that Americans would one day pay more than other countries for the same drug. I just think it’s outrageous.
House progressives, outside advocacy groups and Sanders continue to push for the most aggressive version of the bill possible and accuse those who oppose it of shilling to the pharmaceutical industry. People at this camp say they fear that a narrower, more moderate prescription drug bill will fail to generate the federal savings needed to pay for the party’s plans to expand Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, and will fail. not to keep electoral promises to substantially reduce health care costs for patients.
Although negotiations continue behind the scenes, lawmakers on both sides say they lack clarity on the position of the other.
“I have heard that [Sen. Sinema] opposes Medicare negotiating the prices of prescription drugs, ”Sanders told reporters Thursday, lamenting that he had not heard directly from her on what she was ready to vote for. ” That’s what I heard. I may be wrong. ”
Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.), a key unknown on drug pricing who has once criticized colleagues for using the pharmaceutical industry as a “piggy bank” to pay for other priorities, is also frustrated by a lack details.
“Discussions versus receiving a proposal are two different things,” he said. “Show me a proposal and I’ll tell you how I feel.” ”
Members of Congress and outside advocates said the recent confrontations over raising the debt ceiling and passing a temporary spending bill had distracted them and wasted valuable time they would have. could devote to the provision on drug pricing and other elements of the reconciliation bill.
And with just a few weeks to reach a deal, the list of unresolved issues around the bill remains long. How many and what types of drugs will be negotiated? Will the government use an international or national benchmark for these negotiations, and how will it penalize drug companies that refuse to comply? How much can the government recover from companies that are increasing their prices faster than inflation?
Another key part of the bill is whether Democrats can and should charge the prices Medicare negotiates outside of Medicare, so that people who get their insurance through work or in the individual market can benefit.
Many lawmakers and outside lawyers say the Senate parliamentarian is likely to reject any attempt to extend lower prices to private insurance plans, although his office has yet to formally rule on the matter. Some already argue that losing the larger policy is an acceptable sacrifice.
“History shows that changes to Medicare almost always migrate to the private sector,” Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Recently told reporters. “Because Medicare is the flagship federal program, and when the private sector learns [the lower drug prices], they will insist on it.
The prospect of failure hangs over the entire prescription drug policy debate and what that would mean for both the Democratic Party and the bill itself. Some party members fear this will be a backlash, for example, if it promises to lower drug prices across the board, but excludes the majority of the country from taking out private insurance.
“I don’t think it will be very popular to tell voters, ‘Sorry, you’re too young to have affordable prescriptions,'” a lawyer familiar with the negotiations told POLITICO.
Sanders agreed, saying the Democrats at POLITICO should still fight for the inclusion of the policy even if it risks being knocked out by the parliamentarian, rather than withdrawing it preemptively.
Democrats also warn that if lawmakers cut prescription drug policy too much, it will force them to make additional and painful sacrifices elsewhere.
“HR.3 has generated a certain amount of revenue,” said representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.). “What if all of a sudden those incomes were cut in half? It will really have a negative impact on what we can do in health care and members will be unhappy with it. For every action, there are side reactions.