Tackling high prescription drug prices remained a key focus of Congress this week.
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing Tuesday to discuss potential action on drug pricing reforms. The hearing comes on the heels of the introduction of competing legislative packages on drug pricing last week with Democratic and Republican committee leaders introducing major proposals.
The hearing provided a forum for subcommittee members to debate their different approaches for tackling high prescription drug prices. Democrats continue to focus on government negotiation of drug prices as a key mechanism for reining in high drug costs. The Republican approach instead would facilitate market competition.
During the hearing, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. both referenced President Biden’s State of the Union speech last week, in which he called for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate prices in Medicare.
“It's within our power to do it. Let's do it now,” President Biden said. “We've talked about it long enough. Let's get it done this year.”
Republicans generally oppose price negotiations by the government, arguing that it would amount to government price-setting and lead to a decrease in innovative treatments. Republicans urged passage of their alternative drug pricing reform package, which seeks to lower prices by eliminating barriers to new generics and biosimilars entering the market and increasing pricing transparency from drug manufacturers.
House Democrats remain focused on advancing their legislation, which was reintroduced from the 116th Congress, either as a standalone bill or incorporated into another major legislative package this year, The Biden administration, however, left drug pricing reforms out of the recently proposed
Senate Democrats, led by Finance Committee Chairman Rob Wyden, D-Ore., plan to craft their own drug pricing bill. Chairman Wyden said the priorities include government negotiation of drug prices as well as some reforms from a legislative package he put together with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who chaired the Committee in the 116th Congress. That bill capped seniors’ annual drug costs in Part D, attempted to limit price increases in Medicare Part D and B by making companies pay Medicare back if prices rose faster than inflation, and made insurers offer rebates to Part D beneficiaries at the point of sale.
The Academy is closely monitoring the development of the Senate legislation, as reforms could impact Medicare Part B and D, as well as physician payment.