Sep 23, 2019 - Health

Reconciling the House and Senate's drug pricing bills

An illustration of the Capitol.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's release of her drug pricing plan last week means that both chambers of Congress are officially working to pass drug pricing legislation, with the White House closely monitoring.

Why it matters: For the time being, each chamber is moving ahead on their own version. Pelosi's was met with some trepidation by progressives, while Sen. Chuck Grassley has his work cut out to convince some of his Republican colleagues to support his bill.

Between the lines: There's a lot of overlap between the two chambers' bills, with the biggest difference being that Pelosi's includes aggressive Medicare price negotiations.

  • There's also a push to combine drug prices with legislation addressing surprise medical bills and overall health costs, which is its own political battle.

The big picture: If both chambers can pass anything — a relatively big if — it's anyone's guess how that happens or how the two versions are reconciled.

  • The administration wants Congress to work it out in a conference committee, a senior administration official told me, and it's remained quiet about the details of Pelosi's bill.
  • "We dig some parts of it, hate other pieces of it, can work through it all in conference, and are pumped that [Pelosi]’s finally in the game," the official said.  

What's next: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold the first hearing on Pelosi's bill on Wednesday.

The bottom line: The White House is still the ultimate wild card.

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