WASHINGTON—Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) believes the revised proposal he and co-sponsor Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) hope to reintroduce later this week is the best bet in 2020 for Congress to act against spiraling prescription drug costs.
“The thing to remember about this bill is when youve got [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi passing her bill, she has a different body of people she has to deal with,” Grassley told The Epoch Times on March 10.
“They passed a bill that has a lot of good parts in it, but it cant get 60 votes in the United States Senate, so the Grassley–Wyden bill is what were going to have for anybody who wants to do anything about prescription drugs,” he said.
Getting a handle on prescription drug prices is one of the few issues on which Republicans and Democrats in Congress appear able to work together in a bipartisan fashion. Grassley said he expects the tweaked version of the proposal will be available later this week.
The Grassley–Wyden “Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019” was approved on a bipartisan vote by the finance panel last year, but its progress was slowed by congressional Democrats impeachment campaign against President Donald Trump.
Drug price increases didnt abate during the impeachment drive, however, as Grassley noted during a March 5 Senate floor speech, concerning the period 2007 to 2018.
“List prices on 602 medicines rose by 159 percent, or 9 percent annually. After discounts and rebates, net prices increased by 60 percent, or 4.5 percent annually,” Grassley told the Senate.
“Thats 3.5 times the rate of inflation. These are drugs for multiple sclerosis, cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, chemotherapy, diabetes, and many more debilitating and life-threatening conditions,” he said.
The figures Grassley cited accounted for discounts and rebates offered by drug manufacturers.
The problem is that prescription drug price increases are far outpacing wage gains for most Americans, according to the Iowa senator.
“Meanwhile, wages for the average American over the same time period increased about 30 percent in the private sector. That means wage growth is about half the rate of growth in prescription drug prices—even after rebates and discounts,” Grassley said.
Grassley told The Epoch Times he believes that because 2020 is a campaign year, it helps his proposal “because in every Senate race, [drug pricing] comes up as one of the top three or four issues that people are interested in and demand action by Congress and demand their candidates to take a strong position on.”
The crux of the problem is what Grassley calls “a perverse incentive for companies to increase the price of drugs year-over-year,” thanks to current Medicare regulations on how much the federal government pays manufacturers.
“We limit it to the Consumer Price Index, which would be about 2.3 percent for last year,” Grassley said. “Thats why particularly Republicans ought to be joining on this bill because its very conservative to save the taxpayers money.”
Two of the most recent senators to sign on as co-sponsors—Republicans Martha McSally of Arizona and Joni Ernst of Iowa—face tough reelection fights this year.
Manufacturers should be able to recoup their initial investment and research and development costs, but “once thats set up, they should not have a perverse incentive to increase their profits by gouging the taxpayers,” Grassley said.
Doug Badger, a former White House health care policy adviser who is now a visiting fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told The Epoch Times the Grassley–Wyden proposal could save taxpayers a lot of money with its restructuring Read More – Source