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VOL. 43 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 6, 2019

Pelosi sets showdown vote on Medicare drug negotiations

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House will hold a showdown vote next week on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bill empowering Medicare to negotiate prices for costly prescription drugs, her office announced Thursday.

Democrats have said they would plow billions of dollars in projected savings from the legislation into expanded benefits for seniors, such as vision and dental coverage.

Her bill is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, but it has no chance in the Republican-run Senate.

President Donald Trump, as a candidate, called for giving Medicare negotiating clout, but since taking office he has backed off. The White House is strongly opposed to Pelosi's bill, arguing it will keep up to 100 new drugs from coming to market over a decade. That estimate is far higher than the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has calculated.

The legislation from Pelosi, D-Calif., would authorize Medicare to negotiate prices for the costliest drugs, including insulin, using lower prices paid in other economically advanced countries as the reference point.

The budget office says that could result in price cuts of 40% to 55% for pharmacy drugs subject to negotiations. The bill would allow private insurance plans to also get Medicare's price.

As a hammer to force companies to negotiate, Pelosi would impose steep sales taxes on the medications at issue. Overall, budget analysts estimated the legislation would cut industry revenues by $500 billion to $1 trillion over 10 years.

An initial budget office estimate found the bill would save Medicare $345 billion over seven years. Updated estimates from the CBO are expected soon.

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