Sep 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

NYT: White House drug price negotiations broke down over $100 "Trump Cards"

Trump with Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, on Sept. 3 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
President Trump with Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, on Sept. 3 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Negotiations on a deal between the White House and pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices broke down last month after Mark Meadows, the president's chief of staff, insisted that drugmakers pay for $100 cash cards to be mailed to seniors before the election, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: Some of the drug companies feared that in agreeing to the prescription cards — reportedly dubbed "Trump Cards" by some in the pharmaceutical industry — they would boost Trump's political standing weeks ahead of Election Day with voters over 65, a group that is crucial to the president's reelection bid, per the Times.

The other side: The White House says it did not expect to put President Trump's name on the cards.

  • Before the introduction of the cards, the White House and the pharmaceutical industry were nearing an agreement in which drug companies would spend $150 billion to address out-of-pocket consumer costs and pay co-pays that older Americans carry in Medicare’s prescription drug program.

Of note: Trump's name was added to the physical coronavirus stimulus checks approved under the CARES Act and sent to millions of Americans earlier this year.

What they're saying: “We could not agree to the administration’s plan to issue one-time savings cards right before a presidential election,” Priscilla VanderVeer, vice president of public affairs at PhRMA, the industry’s largest trade group, told the New York Times.

  • “One-time savings cards will neither provide lasting help, nor advance the fundamental reforms necessary to help seniors better afford their medicines."
  • Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, did not comment specifically on the savings cards and noted that Trump held back issuing an executive order this summer that would have tied some drug prices to what other countries pay, also called "most-favored nation" drug pricing.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Caitlin Owens: The “most-favored nation” executive order isn’t the worst thing to happen to the pharmaceutical industry.

  • There’s no way the regulations it calls for are implemented before the election, and the Trump administration has dropped almost every major drug policy initiative it has proposed.
  • So the industry doesn’t have to pay for reforms and doesn’t have to look like they’re trying to give Trump a giant political win right before the election, and probably doesn’t need to worry that much about the executive order either.
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