In particular, Peters said Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) Has not deviated from her position nearly a month ago that he was against the current drug price reforms for debate.
“Senator Sinema does not yet have a proposal for the treatment of prescription drugs,” he said in an interview this week. “And I’m trying to get her to come my way because I honestly think I think it would just be good to put this issue to rest.”
Sinema’s spokesman John LaBombard rejected Peter’s characterization of the senators’ position, saying that Sinema “carefully reviews various proposals on this issue” in its “direct negotiations” on the $ 3.5 trillion package. Sinema generally supports the idea of lowering drug prices, but has declined to say what proposals she might support.
Nevertheless, the inability to reach agreement on the issue of prescription drug prices is just one of many obstacles left for Democrats as they struggle to reach their new Oct. 31 deadline. Although a number of other Democrats are known for hesitating to support the drug price provision, Sinema’s support is absolutely necessary in the 50-50 Senate. To achieve a breakthrough, Biden’s team is increasingly involved in shaping the conversations as they decide how many programs need to be trimmed and which ones need to be completely cut out of the plan.
For months, the White House had largely exposed leaders on Capitol Hill to eradicate disagreements over the crucial prescription drug policy. But in recent weeks, it has actively contacted moderates in Parliament and the Senate to press for their support and has stressed the importance of drug prices in meetings with lawmakers. Peters said the White House has more directly engaged him in drug prices recently, and that “we understand where each other is better.”
White House officials have also noted the unlikely deal between sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) on allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and consider the provision one of many major priorities in the package, according to a source familiar with the administration’s mindset. Reducing the cost of prescription drugs is one of the more popular elements of Biden’s plan, and many Democrats see it as the key to their success in 2022 and beyond. This is especially true as previous promises to lower Medicare’s age and create a public insurance option have been put on the sidelines.
Many lawmakers, including Peters, say they are confident they can still find a middle ground between the sweeping HR.3 bill, favored by progressives that would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies, and that version , who was pushed by the house centrists who would negotiate lower prices for a much narrower set of medicines. Members argue that a watered-down drug bill may be the best they can hope for given the Democrats’ narrow voting margins and an attack on opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.
“There will still be some [drugs] it will remain at the higher price, but that is the way the compromise will be worked out, ”said the rep. Susan Wild (D-Penn.), A front-line member active in political negotiations. “I’m okay with that, if that’s what we need to get it through. But I still cringe at the idea that Americans would ever pay more than other countries for an identical drug. I just think that’s outrageous. ”
House progressives, external advocate groups and Sanders are still pushing for the most aggressive version of the bill, accusing those who oppose it of shilling for the pharmaceutical industry. People in this camp say they are concerned that a narrower, more moderately prescription drug bill will not generate the federal savings needed to pay for the party’s plans to expand Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, and are failing to deliver on The campaign’s tracks promise to significantly reduce healthcare costs for patients.
Although negotiations continue behind the scenes, lawmakers in both camps say they lack clarity on where each other stands.
“I have heard that [Sen. Sinema] is opposed to getting Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, ”Sanders told reporters Thursday, lamenting that he has not heard directly from her about what she is willing to vote for. “It simply came to our notice then. Maybe I’m wrong. ”
Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.), an unknown key in drug pricing who has previously slapped his colleagues for using the pharmaceutical industry as a “piggy bank” to pay for other priorities, is also frustrated by the lack of specifications.
“Discussions regarding actually receiving a proposal are two different things,” he said. “Show me a suggestion and I’ll tell you how I feel.”
Members of Congress and external advocates said the recent showdown by raising the debt ceiling and by adopting a temporary expense bill has distracted them and eaten up valuable time they could have spent working on the provision on drug prices and other parts of the reconciliation bill.
And with just a few weeks left to reach agreement, the list of unresolved issues surrounding the bill is still long. How many and what kind of medicine will be the subject of negotiations? Will the government use an international or national benchmark for these negotiations, and how will they penalize pharmaceutical companies that refuse to comply with them? How much can the government withhold from companies that raise their prices faster than inflation?
Another key hanging around the bill is whether Democrats can and should use the prices Medicare negotiates outside of Medicare so that people who get their insurance through work or in the individual market can benefit.
Many lawmakers and external attorneys say the Senate lawmaker is likely to nix an attempt to extend the lower rates to private insurance plans, even though her office has not yet formally addressed the issue. Some are already arguing that the loss of the broader policy is an acceptable sacrifice.
“History shows that changes made in Medicare almost always migrate to the private sector,” Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Recently told reporters. “Because Medicare is the flagship federal program, and when the private sector learns about it [the lower drug prices], they’re going to insist on it. ”
Hanging over the whole debate over prescription drug policy is the prospect of failure and what it would mean for both the Democratic Party and the larger bill itself. Some in the party fear, for example, that it would be temptingly severe setbacks if it promises to lower drug prices across the board but omits the majority of the country that is enrolled in private insurance.
“I do not think it will be quite popular to say to the electorate, ‘Sorry, you are too young to have access to prescription prescriptions,'” a spokesman familiar with the negotiations told POLITICO.
Sanders agreed, saying to POLITICO Democrats should still fight to involve politics, even if it is in danger of being eliminated by the parliamentarian, rather than preventing it from preventing it.
Democrats also warn that if lawmakers scale down prescription drug policies too far, it will force them to make additional, painful sacrifices elsewhere.
“HR.3 came with a certain amount of revenue,” rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). “What if suddenly this turnover is halved? It will really have a negative impact on what we can do in the health field and the members will be angry about it. For every action there are safety reactions. ”