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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Democrats' drug pricing plan doesn't just apply to Medicare — parts of it also extend into the commercial market, giving the federal government an unprecedented new role in regulating prices paid by those with private insurance.

Why it matters: Medicare negotiations may be the highlight of the plan, but this quieter expansion could signal a political appetite for cost-cutting reforms loathed by most of the health industry.

Where it stands: The deal Democrats announced earlier this week caps how much drug companies can raise drug prices in both Medicare and the commercial market, limiting price hikes to inflation.

By the numbers: Applying inflation caps to the commercial market would generate more than $150 billion in revenue for the federal government by 2030, according to an estimate by West Health.

  • The caps would produce savings for employers, per the analysis, some of which have been advocating for the commercial market to be included in drug reform. Those savings could, in theory at least, be passed along to employees.
  • "This could be particularly important if you're an employer and there's a drug which has significantly raised its price over time. You don't have to worry about that uncertainty anymore," said Rachel Sachs, a law professor at Washington University.

Yes, but: The bill uses 2021 as the base year for the inflation caps, whereas previous versions had set it to a few years ago.

  • Since prices have risen over the last few years, that allows prices to remain at their current levels, even for drugs that have recently seen large price hikes.

What they're saying: "I can't think of a precedent where the federal government similarly capped health care price increases in the private sector," said KFF's Larry Levitt.

  • "The precedent for a federal role in capping prices in commercial insurance is a big deal," he added.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 30, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Putting gasoline prices in perspective

Expand chart
Reproduced from Energy Institute at Haas; Chart: Axios Visuals

This may be cold comfort to anyone feeling the pinch of higher gasoline prices, but a new analysis explains why looking only at per-gallon costs tells an incomplete story.

How it works: University of California economist Severin Borenstein's commentary offers other metrics to look at prices nationwide and in his state, the nation's costliest.

3 hours ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.