Here is this week’s “Capitol Hill Healthcare Update,” which is posted on Mondays when Congress is in session.
DRUG PRICES: CONGRESS RETURNS, PICKS UP WHERE LAWMAKERS LEFT OFF
Congress reconvenes today after a two-week spring recess, with lawmakers in both parties continuing their focus on prescription drug prices.
House and Senate committees are planning a series of hearings and votes on drug pricing legislation, beginning Tuesday and going through at least June. The issue is also on the agenda at a White House meeting Tuesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and President Donald Trump.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he’s working with the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on bipartisan drug pricing legislation that he hopes to introduce by mid-June.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., saidhis committee will take action this summer on a series of bills designed to reduce healthcare costs. Alexander said he favors extending the Trump administration’s proposed regulation requiring negotiated rebates in Medicare Part D plans to be extended to commercial plans. The senator said he hoped to approve several measures that are under his committee’s jurisdiction this summer, combine them with legislation approved by Grassley’s committee and have the package ready for consideration by the full Senate.
In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said votes on drug pricing bills could be scheduled for next month. Those bills – already approved by the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee – include requiring drug manufacturers to publicly justify price increases and launch prices, requiring HHS to disclose rebates negotiated by pharmacy benefits managers and ending “pay-for-delay” patent settlements that critics say block generic competition.
While those bills are mostly bipartisan and in some cases noncontroversial, House Democrats have introduced more sweeping proposals to lower drug prices, such as permitting HHS to negotiate with manufacturers over prices and using the threat of invalidating manufacturers’ patents to force price concessions.