Jul 24, 2019

Drug pricing to dominate fall agenda in Congress

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pharmaceutical industry's lobbyists will really have to work for those millions once Congress comes back from its August recess.

Driving the news: Drug pricing will likely dominate the fall agenda in Congress.

  • The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Finance Committee — Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — released their long-awaited drug pricing bill yesterday. Finance is slated to mark it up on Thursday.
  • House Democrats, meanwhile, are planning to roll out their own bill after the recess — meaning both chambers could have their bills on the floor in September.

On the substance, the bipartisan Senate bill is pretty far-reaching, in the sense that it reaches into many parts of the system. The House bill may end up being more aggressive on its big-ticket items, though.

  • The Senate measure would cap price increases in Medicare Part D and Part B, put a cap on seniors' out-of-pocket costs, and reshape Part D more broadly to deal with some of the program's backwards incentives.

What they're saying: PhRMA, the industry's leading trade organization, said yesterday that the bill "fails to meet the fundamental test of providing meaningful relief at the pharmacy counter for the vast majority of seniors," while the White House signaled its support.

My thought bubble: Everyone's written a million stories about congressional Republicans being pulled between President Trump and some traditionally conservative idea or interest group.

  • But none of those traditional allies have brought as much campaign cash to the table as pharma. That tension could be real this time.
  • Even so, with a bipartisan framework to start and Trump's blessing on top of it, the industry will face a daunting challenge trying to stop the Senate from passing anything serious.
  • And if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can get the progressives in her caucus on board, then we'd be back to the dynamic I mentioned yesterday: testing the bounds of Pelosi's and Trump's ability and willingness to make a deal.

Go deeper

Trump's next move on lowering drug prices

Phot: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House is preparing another big executive order on drug prices, Reuters scooped last night.

The big picture: Citing industry sources who had discussed the plan with the administration, Reuters says that it would likely seek to lower prices in Medicare Part D, which covers drugs you pick up at the pharmacy counter. The administration's most sweeping proposal to date — to piggyback off of the lower prices in European countries — was limited to Part B, which covers drugs administered by a doctor.

Go deeperArrowJul 26, 2019

Mitch McConnell fractures shoulder after falling at Kentucky home

Mitch McConnell: Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has fractured his shoulder after falling at his Kentucky home, his spokesperson said in a statement Sunday. The 77-year-old McConnell has been treated and released from the hospital and is working from his home in Louisville.

The big picture: The injury comes as a number of Democrats and some Republicans have called upon McConnell to cancel the Senate's August recess so that lawmakers can pass gun control legislation in the aftermath of two deadly mass shootings this weekend. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded on Sunday that Senate Republicans put an end to to their "outrageous obstruction," referencing McConnell's refusal to bring two background check bills passed in the House this year for a vote on the Senate floor.

Schumer, Pelosi demand McConnell cancel Senate recess to pass gun control

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, President Trump and Mitch McConnell. Photos: Zach Gibson/Mark Wilson/Alex Wong/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to return the Senate from August recess to "immediately" vote on a House-passed background check bill and send it to President Trump's desk.

The big picture: Pelosi and Schumer are putting the pressure on McConnell to respond to the weekend's 2 mass shootings, pointing to the fact that the House passed 2 gun-control bills earlier this year. Pelosi led a noon call with the House Democratic Caucus on Monday to discuss how to move forward.

Go deeperArrowAug 5, 2019