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HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said today that the Trump administration's plan for lowering drug costs relies on expanded price negotiations — just not the kind Democrats have called for in the past, and which President Trump seemed to embrace during the campaign.

The catch: The administration's plan would pull more drugs into an existing system of price negotiations within Medicare. But it’s not clear how many drugs would be affected or how much of that shift the administration could make on its own, without help from Congress.

Between the lines: Some early reaction to the White House’s drug-pricing plan — including from Democrats pooh-poohing it — has focused on the fact that it does not call for Medicare to directly negotiate what it will pay for prescription drugs.

The other side: “These are big moves, this is harnessing Medicare, this is negotiation,” Azar told reporters today.

  • He dismissed direct government negotiations as “trite, gimmicky, political proposals.”

How it works: Instead, the administration wants to move some drugs from Medicare Part B into Medicare Part D.

  • Part B covers drug administered by a doctor; it pays a fixed rate for those services.
  • Part D covers drugs you take yourself; it relies on privately administered insurance plans, which negotiate discounts off of drugs’ sticker prices.
  • So, moving some drugs from Part B to Part D would expose them to price negotiations from which they’re currently shielded.

The big questions: Azar said the administration is still figuring out which drugs to move into Part D.

  • It’s also not clear how aggressively HHS could move on its own. Azar said he could move at least some drugs from Part B to Part D, using his authority to conduct payment experiments. But the administration has also asked Congress for express authority to make such moves.

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Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

2 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.