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

Trump signs bill to prevent government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and President Trump arrives at the U.S. Capitol in March. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Trump signed a bill to extend current levels of government funding after funding expired briefly, White House spokesperson Judd Deere confirmed early Thursday.

Why it matters: The move averts a government shutdown before the Nov. 3 election. The Senate on Wednesday passed the legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Of note: While the previous measure lapse before Trump signed the bill, the Office of Management and Budget had instructed federal agencies "to not engage in orderly shutdown activities," a senior administration official told the New York Times, because of the OMB was confident the president would sign the measure on Thursday.

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 38 mins ago - Science

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed over 51,620 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1700 firefighters are battling 26 major blazes across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: More than 8,100 wildfires have burned across a record 39 million-plus acres, killing 29 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 33,880,896 — Total deaths: 1,012,964 — Total recoveries: 23,551,663Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 7,232,823 — Total deaths: 206,887 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until 2021
  5. Travel: CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S. waters — Airlines begin mass layoffs while clinging to hope for federal aid
  6. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  7. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.