Amid impeachment hearings, Democrats pass bill to make prescription drugs cheaper

by | Dec 13, 2019 | Health Care, Policy

House Democrats can walk and chew gum. 

Although impeachment hearings have consumed mainstream media attention this week, the Democratic-led House passed a sweeping drug prices bill on Thursday.

The bill, named after the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, would allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate certain drug prices, including insulin. The newly negotiated drug prices would then be offered under Medicare and Medicaid, as well as private health insurers.  

All Democrats from Texas voted for the bill. “l made a promise to North Texans that I would fight every day to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and with the passage of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act today, the House took a historic step toward delivering real relief to folks struggling under the high cost of prescription drugs,” Rep. Colin Allred of Dallas said in a statement.  

“This legislation addresses a critical issue for my constituents and all Americans, and I am glad to see it pass the House today,” said Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Houston. 

Only two Republicans broke with their party to support the bill in a 230-192 vote. It will now move to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has warned the bill will be dead on arrival.

Nevertheless, the bill’s passage represents a political win for Democrats who have introduced legislation favored by an overwhelming majority of Americans. The sky-high cost of prescription drugs is one of the few truly bipartisan concerns in the country.

A nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation poll released earlier this year found 86 percent of Americans support the idea of the government negotiating with drug companies to lower prices for those with Medicare.

Before the bill ultimately passed, some progressive lawmakers in the House, including Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-San Antonio), fought for the bill to go further and include the uninsured in the savings. Texas remains the uninsured capital in the country.

“For those who are insured or rely on insulin, or for those who are fortunate enough to win the lottery to have their drug negotiated, this is a valuable piece of legislation. But for 30 million Americans who are uninsured, they are denied any guarantee of lower prices,” Doggett said in a statement.

 “My goal has never been to turn this bill to the right or to the left but to provide assurances to those have been left out by it,” he said.

Still, the final version of the bill went further than the last drug price negotiation bill introduced by Democrats in 2007 that only included cheaper prices for those with Medicare. That proposal was eventually blocked by Senate Republicans too.

Republicans have accused Democrats of only focusing on impeachment, but the reality is the inquiry and impeachment process has moved remarkably fast and resulted in minimal interruption for the more than 400 bills Democrats have passed this year so far.

Vox compiled a few of those bills, including:

Health care

Civil rights

Gun control

Environment

Military/foreign affairs

  • H.R. 840 — Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act
  • H.J. Res. 37 — Directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress
  • H.R. 31 — Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019
  • H.J. Res. 30 — Disapproving the President’s proposal to take an action relating to the application of certain sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation
  • H.R. 676 — NATO Support Act

Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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