The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The bill, known as H.R. 3, also includes provisions to cap out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and create new vision, dental, and hearing benefits. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the bill would save taxpayers $5 billion over a 10-year period.
The central provision of the measure empowers the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for a minimum of 50 drugs per year, up to a maximum of 250 drugs. The prices for those drugs would be capped at 120 percent of the prices in certain other wealthy countries and the government would negotiate to bring prices down even further. The manufacturers would be required to offer the agreed-on prices to private insurers. Drug companies that refused to negotiate would be hit with a tax of up to 95 percent of the revenue for the drug.
H.R. 3 passed largely on party lines, 230 to 192. Two Republicans voted in favor of the bill: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.). Both are moderates who face competitive reelection races next year. No Democrats voted against the bill.
Lowering the cost of prescription drugs is a huge priority for voters and politicians of both parties. President Trump has made curbing the cost of prescription drugs a central theme of his 2020 re-election campaign and campaigned in 2016 on allowing the government to negotiate drug prices. Democrats campaigned aggressively last year on their promise to lower drug prices, which helped them regain the majority in the House.
The bill is almost certain to be blocked in the GOP-led Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to block it and President Trump has vowed to veto it.