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GOP Opposition to Drug Pricing Bill Shows Scope of Big Pharma’s Grip on Congress

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For months now, President Biden’s ambitious economic and social justice reforms have been whittled down and whittled down again. Each time a major policy package is put together, with hopes that it can pass with only 51 Senate votes via the budget reconciliation process, it ultimately runs afoul of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

Last week, desperate for concrete policy achievements to lay before voters before the midterm elections, the Democrats settled on a dramatically smaller package of reforms, centered around lowering pharmaceutical drug prices for Medicare consumers, that the two recalcitrant senators appear more willing to sign off on. Then, a few days later, on July 27, after months of obstruction, Senator Manchin announced that he will now support a scaled-down version of Build Back Better that would still include both hundreds of billions of dollars of climate change legislation investments and also the health care package that is near and dear to his heart. Provided that Sinema remains on board — and given her track record this year, that’s by no means a given — and provided that moderate Democrats in the House don’t balk on some of its tax provisions, the Democrats may finally have a narrow window to pass significant climate legislation and health care reforms via the budget reconciliation process, which allows financial packages to pass in the Senate via a simple majority.

If this legislation, titled the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, does indeed become law, the health care side of it will allow the Health and Human Services Secretary to negotiate, on behalf of Medicare, discounts on many drugs (10 popular drugs in the first few years, then 15, and finally 20 after that), and will establish financial penalties that can be levied against Big Pharma companies that increase their prices by more than the rate of inflation. These provisions will, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, save the Medicare system nearly $300 billion over the first 10 years of its existence — which is why Manchin has signed onto it as a deficit reduction and inflation-curtailing exercise.

The package of reforms will likely include an annual out-of-pocket pharmacy expenses cap of $2,000 for Medicare enrollees, a provision that is both massively politically popular and also economically sound, as medical costs continue to be a driver of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. It will also extend Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment subsidies........

© Truthout

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