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Secretary Azar of the United States Department of Health and Human Services on the Axios stage. Photo: Ralph Alswang for Axios

Wednesday morning, Axios Co-founder Mike Allen hosted a series of one-on-one conversations exploring the challenge of rising drug costs, how policymakers are tackling the problem, and what is at stake in the next election.

Senator Mike Braun, Indiana
Sen. Mike Braun on Wednesday morning. Photo: Ralph Alswang for Axios

Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) underscored his background in the private sector and discussed the role of CEO in making health care costs manageable for employees.

  • On covering workers: “I believe nobody should go broke because they get sick or have a bad accident.”
  • On engaging with nontraditional Republican issues like prescription drug prices and climate: "I think Conservatives and Republicans are foot-draggers when it comes to getting engaged in issues ... It’s in our DNA"
  • On whether Republicans are on the wrong side of history with Medicare-for-All: "They will be if we can’t convince the industry to reform itself … We need to preserve the best of what we have."
Representative Jan Schakowsky, Illinois
Rep. Schakowsky discusses drug pricing on the Axios stage on Wednesday. Photo: Ralph Alswang for Axios

Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL) focused on current legislative efforts to lower drug prices and the importance of generic drugs in this equation.

  • She discussed H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which has enough votes from Democrats to pass the House. She stressed that Democrats will pass it regardless, but want bipartisan support; for some Republicans, it is at their peril that they would vote against a piece of legislation to lower drug prices.
  • On her dedication to reducing drug prices: "I was able to work on the first bill in the Illinois state legislature to introduce generic drugs … [drug pricing] was a problem then, and it’s only a problem that’s gotten worse."
Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon
Sen. Wyden in conversation with Mike Allen. Photo: Ralph Alswang for Axios

Sen. Wyden (D-OR) discussed price gouging people who depend on medication, noting the severe impact this has on seniors. Highlighting his work with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), he emphasized how reducing drug pricing is a bipartisan subject.

  • On price gouging in health care: "The price of insulin has gone up 13 times, but the drug isn't 13 times better."
  • On passing bills before 2020: "These next few months will be a litmus test of whether Congress is going to be for the patient, the consumer — or for Big Pharma."
Secretary Azar, United States Department of Health and Human Services

Sec. Azar focused on efforts to reduce drug pricing through the private sector, specifically in the creation of a transparent marketplace that would align Medicare coverage of certain prescription drugs with what other major countries pay.

  • On the president's take on drug pricing: "[Trump's] view — which he’s articulated publicly — is that America ought to be getting the best deal among developed countries. That is the terminology of most favored nation status."
  • On how broad the health care discussion is: "We spend so much time talking about Obamacare, but it’s actually a small slice of health care in the US. We’ve got to focus on protecting what works, and making it better in the rest of our system."
  • When asked by Axios' Caitlin Owens if there is ever a case for government regulating health care costs, he replied: "I’d much rather create market-based incentives … How do we enable that marketplace to function?"

Thank you, AARP for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

NRA files for bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for voluntary bankruptcy as part of a restructuring plan.

Driving the news: The gun rights group said it would reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment." Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.