House to Vote on Bill to Expand the ACA But It Also Includes Drug Price Controls

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Today, the House is set to vote on H.R. 1425, “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act.” The bill contains several provisions to strengthen the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and expand Medicaid. However, to pay for some of these changes, the bill also proposes to set drug price controls.

The bill would improve access to and affordability of marketplace exchange plans by expanding ACA subsidies, making premium tax credits more generous, funding state-based reinsurance programs, and funding state efforts to establish their own marketplaces. However, the bill also incorporates Title I of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. In other words, the bill calls for price controls. The federal government would be permitted to cap the price of several medications, including cancer therapies, based on the prices paid in other countries, such as Canada, that currently implement price controls.

As others have pointed out, price controls can lead to drug shortages and patient access problems. For example, between 2011 and 2018, 88 percent of all newly launched medications were available to patients in the U.S. However, in Canada, patients only had access to 46 percent of new medications. Additionally, Canada faces pervasive drug shortages. As such, in countries that impose price controls, such as Canada and the UK, patients are often unable to receive the latest treatments.

If lawmakers sacrifice access to medically necessary treatments by imposing price caps, they would defeat the purpose of ACA expansion given that one of the main tenets of the ACA is accessibility.

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