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Key Committees Advance Democratic Drug Pricing Package

Members of Congress returned to Washington last week following a two-week recess. The three House committees of jurisdiction continued to debate Democratic leadership’s drug pricing plan (H.R. 3) in the hopes of bringing the measure for a vote on the floor the week of October 28. Several revisions to the Lower Drug Costs Now Act were unveiled early in the week. The changes would increase the minimum number of drugs for which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary must negotiate lower prices, from 25 to 35. The latest measure would also require negotiation on some newly-launched drugs if their wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) is greater than or equal to the median national household income. The changes were successful in securing the support of several additional progressive Democrats for the package.

The legislation was advanced by the House Education and Labor and Energy and Commerce committees along party-line votes. The Education and Labor Committee adopted four amendments to the bill. A measure from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) would require the Department of Labor to examine the provision of rebates to group health plans when drug prices increase above inflation. Other adopted amendments would require that a drug’s copayment not exceed a health plan’s negotiated price, call for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on government price negotiations by 2025, and ensure that the data collection requirements included in H.R. 3 are coordinated with other similar collection efforts.

Only one amendment was adopted by the Energy and Commerce panel. The measure, which was offered by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), would increase Part B reimbursement for biosimilars for five years. During its markup of H.R. 3, Energy and Commerce also advanced legislation that would direct savings from government drug pricing negotiations to create dental (H.R. 4650), vision (H.R. 4665), and hearing (H.R. 4618) coverage in Medicare and to make program improvements for low-income program beneficiaries (H.R. 4671).

The Ways and Means Committee held its hearing on H.R. 3 last week and is expected to markup the bill this week. In a letter to his colleagues, Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) stated that he would be seeking changes to the legislation during the markup, and if necessary, during consideration of the bill on the floor. He proposes to expand the number of drugs subject to negotiation, increase assistance for uninsured individuals with their drug costs, and further address the high launch prices of new drugs.

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