Dems lose key health agenda item in spending bill

Yet the plan will now move forward without a provision that would have penalized drugmakers for outpacing inflation in private insurance plans as well as Medicare.

The elimination of private insurance price caps means there is little left to reduce costs for the vast majority of Americans who obtain health insurance through their private sector employer. Democrats are still waiting for a separate decision by Congress on their policy to cap the cost of insulin in and out of Medicare.

The decision also means the bill cuts tens of billions in overall federal savings, a potential threat to Democrats’ hopes to offset the cost of Obamacare’s subsidy cuts.

Still, Democrats argue that the bill will advance in the coming weeks with its most important provision intact: the repeal of a longstanding ban on the federal government directly negotiating drug prices with drug companies.

Majority Leader in the Senate Chuck Schumer A statement on Saturday called the parliamentarian’s order “good news”.

“Medicare will finally be allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices, free vaccines for seniors and cap their costs, and more,” he said.

Representative. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a key negotiator on the House version of the bill, said the provision would “break down the iron curtain that Big Pharma has maintained against negotiating drug prices, and it would be a game-changer.” It is. If it passes, pharma won’t be able to consistently keep it from consumers as they want and want it. And that’s especially important with inflation hurting people at the pump and at the grocery store. “

But Welch, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) acknowledged that the lawmaker’s ruling is still a big win for the drug industry.

“This will basically mean that pharma companies can raise prices above inflation,” he said in an interview in the days before the vote.

Drug companies and Senate Republicans had planned for months to target the provision of inflation caps — through a process known on Capitol Hill as the “Byrd bath.” Sen Mike Cropo (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters he went through the bill “line by line” in an effort to bring every challenge he could find.

Democrats pushing the policy for years believed it could pass under the Senate’s strict reconciliation rules, which limit what types of bills can pass simply. The majority can fly only proposals that primarily concern federal spending or revenues, but not those that make major policy changes and only have an “incidental” effect on the federal budget.

Democrats argued that the bill needed to cap inflation across the board for drug prices to work, warning that failure to do so would mean that pharmaceutical companies would increase prices for people with private insurance. can increase even more so that they control the cost of the cost losses that are still passed on to Medicare.

Sen Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said such points “are usually the kind of argument that is persuasive with parliamentarians.”

“You can’t separate the private sector from the public sector – one doesn’t work without the other,” he said.

Supporters of the provision also point to a finding last year by the Congressional Budget Office that the inflation cap provision would save the government about $80 billion. finished Argued for a decade that it should be allowed to remain in the bill.

Yet reconciliation experts and industry insiders alike were confident the provision would be left out of the package.

“A lot of people think that if something gets a significant CBO score, it can’t be considered a coincidence — but it’s more about whether the policy implications outweigh the budget,” said Stephen Northrup, a lobbyist. who has previously worked as a health policy. Director of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “If the inflation cap was limited to Medicare, you could make a very direct relationship between policy and scores. But when you extend it to the commercial market, the relationship gets weaker. It seems you You’re trying to save money more than you’re trying to expand a policy that has an impact outside of the federal budget.”

Democrats currently have no backup plan for the policy, although some advocates are now trying to apply inflation caps to other federal insurance programs, such as Medicaid and insurance for federal employees.

Even if they are able to do so, progressives who originally pushed for greater drug price controls are frustrated that their already watered-down plan has weakened even more over the past year. Done.

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who spent months crafting the drug pricing language and wrangling the votes to pass it, lobbied on Capitol Hill to end the inflation cap provision. Blame industry influence.

“Special interests always work against us getting relief to hard-hit Americans, especially seniors,” he told OlxPraca before the parliamentarians’ decision. “So it’s no surprise that the special interests — and you’ve seen the numbers of how many lobbies they have — are trying to protect their profits.”