Senate Democrats begin updating their 2019 drug pricing bill, despite Republican skepticism.


June 11, 2021 3:25 pm

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) confirmed in a hearing this morning that he’s begun updating the 2019 bill he co-authored with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have cut subsidies from drug companies that raised prices more than the cost of inflation, POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein reports. 

Specifically, Wyden said he plans to add some kind of Medicare price negotiation to that narrower bill, though it may not look exactly like the House’s H.R. 3 (117)

“Not only are too many Americans forgoing or rationing their prescriptions, sky-high drug prices could bust our health care budgets,” Wyden said. “We are all hungry for genuine medical breakthroughs, but what does it mean, senators, if the vast majority of Americans cannot afford them?”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra endorsed the general effort, praising lawmakers for putting forward “a number of good ideas,” including rebates and more oversight mechanisms. But as in other hearings this week, he declined to say what exact policies he supports. 

“Innovation is effective only if people can afford it,” Becerra said. 

GRASSLEY: Assume the bill is dead — Grassley insisted that Medicare price negotiation “can’t get 60 votes” in the Senate and asked Becerra if Biden’s budget proposal didn’t include H.R. 3 because he believes there’s “no path forward” for the bill.

When Becerra demurred, Grassley urged him to lobby Biden to instead support his narrower, bipartisan bill, claiming it could “easily get 65 to 70 votes in the Senate and maybe more than that” and that it could meaningfully regulate the drug industry. 

Still, several Democrats made it clear in the hearing they wouldn’t settle for the Grassley-Wyden proposal, which Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) suggested was a “watered-down half-measure” as she demanded “drug price negotiation with real muscle.”