House Likely To Pass Drug Price Negotiations Bill
House Democrats likely will have an adequate number of votes to pass a bill (HR 4) that would require the HHS secretary to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on prices for medications under the Medicare prescription drug benefit, USA Today reports. The House likely will vote on the legislation on Friday.
However, the bill "faces a closer battle in the Senate," USA Today reports (Wolf, USA Today, 1/10). "Unlike their party colleagues in the House, Senate Democratic leaders are sending high-priority bills through regular order, a move that underscores their promise of bipartisanship," The Hill reports.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Thursday will hold a hearing on the legislation, but Baucus last year voted against two similar bills.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) on Wednesday plan to introduce a revised version of a bill that received 54 votes in the Senate last year. Wyden said, "I'm going to work very closely with chairman Baucus. I'm pleased with the discussions we've had" (Schor/Young, The Hill, 1/10).
According to USA Today, the issue might lead to a "debate about the government's role in the marketplace" that "could signify a series of political conflicts over health care policy reminiscent of the Clinton administration's first two years" (USA Today, 1/10).
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said he would join with other senators to filibuster the legislation. According to CongressDaily, Grassley and other senators who oppose the bill "are likely to warn of government price controls."
Grassley said, "I think for sure we'd have to say it's got the votes to pass. Now, does it have 60 votes? I don't know." Grassley said that he opposes the legislation because the bill would provide "an opening, when they get a Democratic president, to do away with the marketplace." Grassley added that, "eventually, we have to ask them to prove how they're going to save more money than we are" with the current Medicare prescription drug benefit (Johnson, CongressDaily, 1/10).