House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration are in early talks about possible bipartisan bills to lower prescription drug costs. The discussions are not public, and the White House official who confirmed them would not say what specific bills they were discussing. Still, this is an encouraging sign. Democrats and Republicans have been unveiling proposals to reduce drug prices, and this is a rare example of a bipartisan issue that both parties agree is a problem.
According to the article, "White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan and legislative director Shahira Knight are leading the talks for the Trump administration. Wendell Primus, Pelosi's health policy staffer, is leading the talks for the House Democrats." This is not the first time Democrats and the Trump administration have spoken about possible cooperation on drug costs. Back before the 2018 elections Rep. Elijah Cummings met with Trump, and this February Rep. Peter Welch and other Democrats met with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
There are many bills being considered by Congress. Just this morning, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee held a markup on the CREATES Act and several other bills to promote generic competition. Other proposals include bills to curb patent abuse, give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices, regulate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and require PBM rebates to be passed on to health plans, and bills to allow competitive licensing. The Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, is one of the most popular initiatives, with 104 cosponsors.
The Senate Finance Committee, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, House Ways and Means Committee, and House Energy and Commerce Committee have all held hearings on rising drug prices. Some advocates have expressed concern that legislators are more concerned with hearings than passing bills to lower drug costs. We think that is unfair; there is widespread agreement among most Representatives and Senators that this is a major problem, and it is important to get the facts in order to pass good bills.
We hope that these negotiations between Speaker Pelosi and the White House are fruitful and result in strong reform bills. Policymakers should not apply a few Band-Aids and declare the problem solved. Instead, they should focus on the root causes. The Senate Finance Committee is holding another hearing on April 9th-it will focus on PBMs and give Senators an opportunity to learn how PBMs are a major contributor to skyrocketing drug costs. Congress and the administration should focus on the root causes of rising drug costs and make sure that drug companies and PBMs are well regulated so they cannot abuse their power.