Below is this week’s “Capitol Hill Healthcare Update,” which is posted on Mondays when Congress is in session.
McCONNELL WANTS BIPARTISAN DEAL ON DRUG PRICES BY JULY
To schedule time for debate in the Senate on legislation to lower prescription drug prices, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants a bill that’s thoroughly bipartisan and ready to go before the end of July.
Although Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are continuing discussions over a drug pricing bill, Grassley said last week that he’s not overly optimistic on reaching consensus. Grassley said he and Wyden have reached agreement on 85% percent of the bill, but that finding agreement on the remaining 15%, he predicts, would be difficult.
The senators have discussed limiting seniors’ out-of-pocket expenses and calling for some changes to Medicare Part B and Part D, but not a wholesale structural overhaul – and not government negotiation of drug prices, which Grassley opposes.
Of the seven Senate Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination, all are backing government negotiation of drug pricing – a complicating political factor for Senate Democratic leaders, who might be forced to withhold support for any bill that doesn’t include government negotiation.
McConnell’s July deadline effectively means he’s doubtful drug pricing legislation can achieve bipartisan consensus after Labor Day, when the 2020 presidential campaign will be fully engaged. He also wants to keep the fall Senate schedule clear for budget, spending and debt issues, as lawmakers scramble again to avoid a government shutdown and a possible credit crisis.