Sens. Ron Wyden and Chuck Grassley. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

A group of senators is considering a plan to limit how much drug companies can raise their prices in Medicare's prescription drug benefit, among other changes.

The big picture: Some of the proposals would majorly restructure the way Medicare pays for drugs and are sure to draw massive industry pushback — if lawmakers can even agree to them.

Driving the news: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and the committee‘s top Democrat, Ron Wyden, have been negotiating a drug price package. Grassley briefed Republican members yesterday on the discussions.

  • There's general agreement on a handful of measures, two Senate aides familiar with the negotiations said, including restructuring how Part D's catastrophic phase is financed, capping seniors' out-of-pocket costs and limiting price increases in Part B to the inflation rate.
  • Drug companies — which currently don't pay any portion of the catastrophic phase — would be on the hook for some of it, but it's not yet clear how much, according to the aides and a senator who was in yesterday's meeting.

Yes, but: Limiting price increases in Part D to the inflation rate is more controversial, as is a proposal to allow Medicaid to pay for gene therapies over time and based on their outcomes.

  • "I don’t think you have to do government-required pricing, or price baking, to be able to control costs," said Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Administration officials, including HHS Secretary Alex Azar and the head of the Domestic Policy Council, Joe Grogan, attended yesterday‘s meeting.

  • "The White House and HHS are unified in support of what Chairman Grassley is doing to help protect seniors from outrageous drug prices, improve Medicare for the long haul, and take needed steps forward in how Parts B and D operate," a senior White House official said.

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Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.

AOC: "Extremely important" that Biden offer Bernie Sanders a Cabinet position

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that she believes it's "extremely important" that Joe Biden offer Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressive leaders Cabinet positions if he's elected president.

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez was pressed repeatedly on policy differences between her and the more moderate Biden, including her opposition to fracking and support for Medicare for All. She responded that it would be a "privilege" and a "luxury" to be able to lobby a Biden administration on progressive issues, insisting that the focus right now should be on winning the White House.

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Mark Meadows: "We are not going to control the pandemic"

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defended Vice President Pence's decision to continue traveling and campaigning despite his exposure to aides who have tested positive for COVID-19, saying Sunday that Pence is exempt from CDC guidelines because he is "essential personnel."

Why it matters: CDC guidelines call for people who have been exposed to the virus to quarantine for 14 days. Meadows said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Pence will wear a mask when he travels and argued that "he's not just campaigning," pointing to the Israel-Sudan normalization agreement announced by the White House last week.