House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushes vote on drug-pricing bill to December

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CAlif) holds her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. September 12, 2019.

Aurora Samperio | NurPhoto | Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not bring her sweeping drug-pricing bill to the floor for a vote this month as previously expected, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Pelosi’s office is awaiting the final review from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which measures the bill’s impact on federal spending. That is now expected to take two more weeks, according to the aide.

This is the second such delay. The House was expected to vote on the bill in late October, but it was later pushed to November after the CBO told Pelosi’s office its timeline had slipped.

Lawmakers made few changes to Pelosi’s bill when it was passed through three committees — Ways and Means, Education and Labor and Energy and Commerce — along partisan lines last month.

Republicans, however, repeatedly expressed concerns that Pelosi’s plan was highly partisan, secretly written and dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Republicans were quick to cite the preliminary CBO report released earlier that month, which said Pelosi’s drug-pricing plan would lead to a reduction of eight to 15 new drugs coming to the market over 10 years.

However, the analysis also showed Pelosi’s plan would save Medicare $345 billion over the decade, with the largest savings coming from the provision that would permit the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices on the costliest drugs each year.

In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden, of Oregon, have introduced their own bipartisan drug price bill that is backed by President Donald Trump. It would make changes to Medicare by adding an out-of-pocket maximum for beneficiaries and capping drug price increases at the rate of inflation, among other measures.

Industry trade group PhRMA, short for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and some Republicans opposed parts of Grassley’s plans. They said the measures would fail to provide meaningful relief at the pharmacy counter for seniors. Grassley is reportedly working on a new version of the bill aimed at gathering more Republican support, according to Bloomberg Law.

High prescription drug costs have become a rare bipartisan issue, as health care remains a top issue for voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Congress and the Trump administration are trying to pass legislation before the end of the year that would bring more transparency to health-care costs and, ultimately, lower costs for consumers.

Earlier this year, Pelosi said she hoped to work with Trump on a bill to lower drug prices even after launching an impeachment inquiry. In response, Trump accused Pelosi of trying to distract voters.

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