Sep 23, 2022 - Health

House GOP eyes repeal of Dems' drug pricing law

Illustration of a gavel made of a pill bottle, touching a gavel rest made of a white pill.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Some key House Republicans are calling for the repeal of Democrats' newly-passed drug pricing measure if the GOP flips control of one or both chambers of Congress next year.

Why it matters: The comments show Republicans are not giving up the fight against sweeping measures aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, and give a glimpse of what their health agenda could look like.

What they're saying: "If the courts haven't gotten to it beforehand, yeah we've got to do our job and try to defend the Constitution," Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) told Axios, saying the law is an "unlawful taking."

  • Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, indicated repealing the drug pricing law is a likely agenda item. "Because those drug provisions are so dangerous, by discouraging investment in life-saving cures, I would imagine that will be a top priority for Republicans in the new session," he said.
  • Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) replied "yes" when asked if he backed repeal of the drug pricing law.

Between the lines: Democrats view the drug pricing measure in the Inflation Reduction Act as a clear political winner and are essentially daring Republicans to say they want to repeal it.

  • The law would for the first time allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for a limited set of costly prescription drugs beginning in 2026.
  • Republicans deride the measure as a "price control" that would hinder drug development.
  • Other provisions in the IRA would limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation and cap seniors' out of pocket drug costs at $2,000 per year.

The big picture: House Republicans on Thursday unveiled their agenda for next year, called the "Commitment to America."

  • The plan isn't heavy on health policy, but does criticize Democrats' drug pricing law as a "drug takeover scheme" that would lead to fewer cures.
  • Henry Connelly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeted that it was evidence of "The extreme MAGA 'Commitment'" to dial back lower drug prices that Democrats delivered.
  • Democrats also pounced on parts of the agenda that hinted at changes to Social Security and Medicare in order to "save and strengthen" the entitlement programs.

Yes, but: Not all Republicans were adamant about tackling the issue in a divided Washington.

  • "We need to be realistic," Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, told Axios. "I mean you've got to get the president to sign it," he added.
  • He pointed to a more modest Republican drug pricing measure as an alternative, and noted there are some areas of bipartisan agreement like capping seniors out-of-pocket costs in Medicare.
  • House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) didn't address the issue head on. The Commitment to America "shows what are going to be those first priorities in a Republican Congress," he said. "Obviously, we need to get there, but you're going to see us address a lot of the problems that the Democrats created."
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