Prescription Drug Prices: Two Paths
House Democrats are spending most of their time on the impeachment of President Trump. They soon plan to take a break from that activity, however, to push Speaker Pelosi’s unconstitutional and anti-cures drug pricing bill.
Reducing prescription drug prices should be a priority for the House of Representatives. It has been for Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee, including myself.
We have worked repeatedly with the Democrats on the committee on legislation that will help with the unacceptably high costs many people pay for their prescriptions. Earlier this year, several bipartisan bills on the issue were advanced out of the committee unanimously.
Before those bills came to the House floor for a vote, Speaker Pelosi used a backroom maneuver to combine them with highly partisan bills that killed any chance of them becoming law, because the Senate will not pass them. Her actions constituted a roadblock to progress on an issue important to many Americans.
Now Speaker Pelosi is at it again with her drug pricing bill, H.R. 3.
Republicans in the House have repeatedly shown our interest and ability to work with Democrats in tackling this problem, and President Trump has been a strong advocate for action as well.
But instead of including us in the process and giving the bill a realistic chance of becoming law, it appears Speaker Pelosi wrote H.R. 3 chiefly to please the far left of the House Democrat caucus.
The centerpiece of her bill is the imposition of prices by government bureaucrats. Supposedly, the Federal Government will “negotiate” a maximum drug price. In reality, if a drug manufacturer does not comply with the bureaucrat’s price, the government takes by tax up to 95 percent of the manufacturer’s gross revenue – in other words, all money made by the sale of those drugs, not just the money made after including the expense of making them.
That is not negotiation, but coercion.
Earlier this year, I raised the objection in committee on the record that such a provision would violate the Constitution.
The nonpartisan experts at the Congressional Research Service agree. Having analyzed the bill, they warn that H.R. 3 would violate the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause and Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive fines. Speaker Pelosi nevertheless has failed to correct this glaring problem.
The imposition of price controls on drugs will lead to the development of fewer new cures. Democrats have accepted that outcome, but I will not.
Because we are committed to meaningful, practical reform in drug pricing, House Republicans are introducing H.R. 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act.
Our bill contains numerous provisions with widespread support that would deliver lower costs without sacrificing new cures.
For example, it would cap the cost of insulin for seniors in Medicare Part D at $50 a month.
When insulin can cost patients thousands of dollars today, it is worth remembering that the discoverer of this life-saving product sold the patent for $1 almost a century ago to make sure it was readily available. The American Diabetes Association has found that more than 25 percent of Americans aged 65 or older have diabetes, so this protection against high insulin prices will bring real relief.
The Lower Costs, More Cures Act would give more authority to the Food and Drug Administration to approve more products, increasing competition and creating pressure to lower prices.
Transparency in drug pricing is a key piece of drug pricing reform, and the Lower Costs, More Cures Act would bring more transparency into the system. It would implement changes I have long advocated regarding pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), bringing more of their activities into the sunlight.
The House of Representatives now must consider what it wants out of a drug pricing reform bill.
H.R. 3 may excite the far left, but it has no chance of becoming law, nor should it. Its provisions, even if they withstand judicial scrutiny, would only prevent or delay the delivery of more innovation in the medical sector.
In contrast, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act contains a list of policies that would benefit the health and economic well-being of Americans using prescription drugs. These policies would correct problems without undermining the strengths our health care system does possess. Most enjoy broad support across the political spectrum and have been introduced as bipartisan bills in the past.
The choice is clear. The House should reject H.R. 3 and take up the Lower Costs, More Cures Act.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.