Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > 2019 > 12 > House Passes Pelosi Drug Pricing Bill on Party-Line Vote

House Passes Pelosi Drug Pricing Bill on Party-Line Vote

Posted 12 December 2019 | By Zachary Brennan 

House Passes Pelosi Drug Pricing Bill on Party-Line Vote

House Democrats on Thursday fell in line behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) drug pricing bill, voting for its passage 230-192, with two Republicans voting for it -- Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA). The bill is not likely to be taken up in the Senate, and was derided by House Republicans as being too partisan and putting the development of many new treatments at risk.

President Donald Trump, who praised the Pelosi effort when it was first released, later turned against the bill, further ensuring its defeat.

Speaking on the House floor on Thursday, Pelosi praised the bold urgency of the bill to take on the “crushing burden” of prescription drug prices.

“58 million Americans could not fill a prescription last year because of the cost,” Pelosi said, noting that under her bill, the price of some insulin products could be reduced to just $400 per year (from more than $5,000 currently).

Americans are paying four times as much or more for many drugs when compared to other countries, Pelosi added, noting, “Negotiation is what this bill is about. Negotiation is the heart of the matter.”

The bill, known as HR 3, would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate between 50 and 250 prescription drug prices both for Medicare and for the private market. The CBO estimates that over a decade, the negotiation provision would lower government health care spending by $456 billion, but would also lead to a reduction in new drugs developed (for more on a rundown of HR 3 and other drug pricing measures, see this Health Affairs post). 

Republicans pounced on the threat of losing new treatments and countered that the penalties in the bill for companies that do not agree to the new negotiated prices would be too severe.  They also explained how the Pelosi plan is intentionally partisan and would lead to fewer new drugs being developed over the next decade.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) said he’s “all for lowering prices,” and “lowering the gaming of the system,” but, “people will die if we have fewer cures. That is a fact.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also discussed how many more lives would be saved by not turning Pelosi’s bill into a law. And Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) conceded that “drug prices are too high,” but he called the Pelosi plan a “dangerous trade-off” by lowering drug prices and potentially losing “cures.” “When this is done, let’s work together on things that really matter to families back home,” Brady added.

But Democrats countered that the Pelosi bill is one of the few possible avenues of bringing down the prices of drugs. Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) called the Republican talking points on reduced cures “fear mongering” and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) noted that many of her constituents must decide between groceries or gas for their cars and prescription drugs.

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