Big Pharma, GOP Using Senate Parliamentarian To Nix Drug Price Cuts
The pharmaceutical industry and its allies in the Republican Party are reportedly teaming up to craft challenges to congressional Democrats’ drug price reform plan in the hopes of convincing the Senate parliamentarian — an unelected functionary — to help tank the proposal, Jake Johnson reported for Common Dreams.
Photo Insert: Drug companies are allegedly using this tactic to make up for the revenue they stand to lose from Medicare price negotiations and other provisions of the Democrats' drug price reform plan.
Earlier this month, Democrats struck a deal on a scaled-back plan that would allow Medicare to directly negotiate prices for a more limited subset of prescription medicines and penalize companies that raise drug prices more rapidly than inflation.
The proposed fines for violating the inflation cap would apply to both Medicare and private plans, threatening the pharmaceutical industry’s virtually unchecked power to set prices as they please.
Though Big Pharma’s massive lobbying blitz appeared to have paid off after Democrats significantly weakened their original, broadly popular reform proposal, Politico reported that “the way the plan would extend price controls beyond Medicare… is stoking another battle over” the Build Back Better package, a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s domestic policy agenda.
Drug industry lobbyists — who outnumber members of Congress by a ratio of three to one — are “urging Republican senators to scuttle the drug-pricing language with parliamentary challenges while looking for cracks in the Democrats’ ranks after the industry fought off more aggressive House attempts to impose drug price controls,” according to Politico.
“Backers fear both practical and political consequences if the inflation cap is stripped out — warning that drug companies could hike prices for the roughly 180 million people on employer health plans or other private insurance to make up for the revenue they stand to lose from Medicare price negotiations and other provisions of the bill,” the outlet added.
Under Senate rules, each provision of a reconciliation bill must have a direct — not “merely incidental” — impact on the federal budget, a highly subjective judgment that the unelected parliamentarian is tasked with handing down.