In a time of great partisan divide, both sides of the aisle seem to agree on one thing: it is time to lower prescription drug prices. Several different policy options have been offered that could lower prices, with controversial bills from both Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Grassley. Pelosi’s legislation has moved to an initial committee hearing, is currently under budget analysis, and will likely reach the House floor if the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis shows significant savings for the government. Pelosi’s bill would compel the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers and would then guarantee that private insurance companies pay the same that price the government negotiated. Pelosi’s bill would also place a much-needed cap on out-of-pocket spending for Medicare enrollees. Alternatively, Sens. Grassley and Wyden have recently released the full text of their drug pricing legislation, which restructures the Medicare Part D benefit and implements a rebate that would penalize pharmaceutical manufacturers who raise the prices of their products faster than inflation.
However, recently announced impeachment hearings against Trump threaten to derail any momentum on drug pricing and other issues related to health care. Impeachment hearings will likely consume a substantial amount of the House’s time, which could push health care reform efforts to the backburner. Some analysists have predicted that Pelosi’s bill will be completely unable to move through Congress during these impeachment proceedings. Sen. Grassley recently expressed fears that his own drug pricing legislation would also be forgotten amidst the impeachment proceedings and the upcoming election season, casting doubt on Congress’ ability to achieve any progress on drug pricing in the next year.
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