House Democrats want to lower drug prices. House Republicans do not. That’s about the only possible takeaway from a Dec. 12 vote on House Resolution 3, entitled the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which passed 230-192. To be fair, out of 193 Republicans, two of them did join all 228 House Democrats in voting for the bill, and one of those was Southwest Washington Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler.
The bill allows Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to get lower prices on insulin and single-source brand-name drugs that don’t have generic versions (Incredibly, current law prohibits Medicare from using its bargaining power to get a good deal on the pharmaceuticals it pays for). The bill also caps out-of-pocket drug expenses for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000 a year and eliminates beneficiary cost-sharing above that. And it creates an international pricing index and prohibit companies from charging over 20% more for the same drug in the United States than abroad.
The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate, which a Republican majority currently controls. When he was running for president in 2016, Donald Trump said he supported letting Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices. But the White House in a Dec. 10 statement said the bill would reduce drug companies’ incentive to bring new drugs to market, and pledged that Trump would veto it if it passes the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will block it.