Immediately after Nancy Pelosi’s Lower Drug Costs Now Act passed in the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “dead on arrival” in the Senate. Now he’s stalled another bill to bring down drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, a move two senators are calling sabotage.
Grassley and Wyden on McConnell
The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA) was drafted by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Despite living in hyper-partisan times, the two have continued to reach across the aisle to bring down drug prices for Americans. However, Grassley and Wyden are pointing the finger at McConnell for killing the legislation by telling Republicans in the Senate not to support it, according to Grassley.
“The president wants it. Senate majority leaders, historically…if you’ve got the president of the same party, they tend to be the spokesman for the administration, not against the administration,” said Grassley, one of the highest ranking Republicans in Congress.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the drug pricing package, which has received White House support and has been called Congress’ best chance to pass drug pricing reform, in July. Despite the rare bipartisan support, no bill can be voted on in the Senate unless McConnell brings it to a vote. There are currently more than 275 House-passed bills sitting on McConnell’s desk.
“I want everyone to understand this didn’t just happen by osmosis,” said Wyden. “Mitch McConnell made a conscious, premeditated decision to side with pharma rather than the consumer who’s getting mugged at the pharmacy counter.”
About the bill
Among other actions, the PDPRA bill would cap out-of-pocket spending on Medicare Part D drugs at $3,100 and reduce the cost of insulin by providing consumers with significant rebates.
Additionally, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the bill would save:
- $100 billion in deficits,
- $25 billion in Part D cost-sharing, and
- $6 billion in Part D premiums.
It would also distribute financial responsibility for catastrophic coverage payments. Once a beneficiary reaches catastrophic coverage ($6,350 in out-of-pocket costs in 2020, up from $5,100 in 2019), they only pay a 5 percent coinsurance of the drug’s list price. The bill proposes dropping Medicare’s reinsurance responsibility (from 80 percent to 20 percent) and increasing the Part D insurer’s responsibility (from 15 percent to 60 percent).
The bill also addresses the high cost of physician-administered drugs, like chemotherapy, which are covered under Part B. Like other provisions in the bill, if the prices of these drugs increases faster than the rate of inflation, drugmakers would be obligated to pay the difference in the form of a rebate.
The bill was slated to become law in 2020, and go into effect by 2022.