House Passes Bill Aimed at Lowering Drug Prices

The House of Representatives on Dec. 12 passed a sweeping bill aimed at lowering drug prices by requiring negotiations for the prices of certain drugs.

“With this legislation, Democrats are fulfilling our pledge to the American people in passing legislation that will bring down prescription drug costs for the people,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the House floor in Washington.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) was among the representatives urging their colleagues to vote for the bill, saying before the vote, “I have fought for years to include these critical services in my Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act, and most importantly, giving our older adults the gift of hearing, vision, and oral health would go a long way to helping them enjoy their golden years, free from depression and social isolation.”

“It’s time to recognize that total health care for our seniors must include adequate access to vision, hearing, and dental services,” she added.

The House voted 228-191 to approve the bill, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Prices Now Act. The bill would lower federal spending by about $456 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

All Democrats who voted approved the legislation along with two Republicans—Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.); 191 Republicans opposed it. Eight members of Congress missed the vote, including Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), whose office said he is recovering from emergency surgery.

The bill will “lower the cost of healthcare by lowering the cost of prescription drugs,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference shortly after the House voted to approve the bill.

“I’ve seen grown men cry on the campaign trail because they cannot meet the prescription drug costs, whether they have a spouse who is ill or a child who has a preexisting condition, whatever it is. This will make all the difference in the world, and central to it is the power to negotiate.”

An illustration image shows tablets of a prescription drug. (Eric Baradat//AFP via Getty Images)

If passed and signed into law, the bill would require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to negotiate prices for certain drugs, including insulin, where current law prohibits the CMS from doing so.

“The negotiated maximum price may not exceed (1) 120 percent of the average price in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom; or (2) if such information is not available, 85 percent of the U.S. average manufacturer price. Drug manufacturers that fail to comply with the bill’s negotiation requirements are subject to civil and tax penalties,” a summary of the bill stated.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he’s focused on passing a defense bill by the end of the year and getting several more judges approved. He has also panned the legislation, saying he wouldn’t act on it in the Senate.

President Donald Trump has indicated he’d veto the bill and the White House supports a different bill, pushed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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