Jul 14, 2022 - Health

Manchin broaches a stand-alone drug pricing bill

Sen. Joe Manchin
Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Congressional Democrats see government drug price negotiations as a core part of a reconciliation bill — but one key swing lawmaker suggested Wednesday that piece could wind up being an end in itself.

What happened: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reiterated concern about big spending initiatives worsening inflation on a day the Consumer Price Index hit another four-decade high.

  • But he added if lawmakers can’t agree on anything else, they could still use the reconciliation process to pass a drug price plan he’s been negotiating with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
  • Manchin’s gone down this road before, portraying Medicare-negotiated payments to drugmakers as the one thing that could get through the 50-50 Senate using the partisan reconciliation process.

Yes, but: That would effectively shelve other ambitious health initiatives Democrats want to enact before the midterms, including permanently extending enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Quotable: Manchin’s flipping the usual politics of health care, said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“It's generally relatively easy to get the votes to spend money, but very difficult politically to take on health care providers and the drug industry to control costs. Right now, the opposite seems to be true,” Levitt tweeted.

The intrigue: But a standalone drug pricing bill may not pass muster with all the Senate Democrats, some of whom might insist that anticipated savings from negotiations help pay for other health care initiatives, not just deficit reduction, said Cowen analyst Rick Weissenstein.

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