Vulnerable House Democrats call for Medicare drug price negotiation in reconciliation plan

A group of some of the most vulnerable House Democrats sent a letter to Democratic leaders urging them to include sweeping drug pricing reforms in the upcoming reconciliation bill, which could help pay for the $3.5 trillion package.

The 15 lawmakers from “front-line” districts at risk in 2022 told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to embrace giving Medicare the ability to negotiate prices, and then use the savings to bring down costs across the health care system.

The measure would save hundreds of billions of dollars, which could also be used to pay for parts of the reconciliation package.

“Empowering Medicare in this way and making these negotiated prices available to the private sector will bring down the cost of prescription drugs not just for seniors, but also for individuals and families across America,” the group, led by Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), wrote.

Internal debate: Lowering prescription drug prices is a top priority for Democrats, but there are internal divisions over just how far to go.

H.R. 3, the legislation championed by Pelosi and Democratic leadership allowing the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices, received only two Republican votes when it passed the House in 2019, and it is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.

At the same time, a group of 10 Democratic centrists have expressed concerns that the legislation goes too far, and would hurt manufacturers’ ability to develop new drugs. They want a smaller, bipartisan measure.