August 14, 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate lawmakers narrowed down Democrats’ plan to curb drug prices, but left it mostly useless on Saturday, Democrats said, as party leaders launch their agitation was prepared. spread economic bill through the chamber.

Elizabeth McDonough, the arbiter of the chamber’s rules, said provisions should be removed that would force drugmakers to pay rebates if their prices rise above inflation for products sold to private insurers. If the prices of drugs purchased by Medicare go up too high, pharmaceutical companies will have to pay those penalties.

Other restrictions on rising drug costs survived, including allowing Medicare to negotiate costs for the drugs it purchases, reducing out-of-pocket expenses for senior citizens, and providing free vaccines.

“This is a major victory for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., said in a statement. “While there was an unfortunate decision that the inflation exemption is more limited in scope, the overall program remains in place and we are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and reducing Rx drug prices for millions of Americans.”

The lawmaker’s decision came after a 10-day period in which Democrats resurrected the top constituents of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda after they appeared to be dead. In rapid-fire deals with two of the Democrats’ most unlikely senators Joe Manchin, the First Conservative of West VirginiaThen Arizona Centrist Kirsten Cinema — Schumer put together a comprehensive package addressing climate change, energy, health care costs and even deficit reduction, all against the backdrop of this fall’s congressional elections.

Reducing fines on drugmakers for raising prices on private insurers was a clear blow to Democrats. The decision lowers the incentive on drug companies to curb rising costs for patients.

Analysts have said it would also reduce the $288 billion in 10-year savings that Democrats had projected to generate overall drug curbs — perhaps tens of billions of dollars.

Still, the lawmaker’s decision enabled Democrats to promote drug provisions as a boon to consumers at a time when voters are hit by the worst inflation in four decades.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Said that while he was “disappointed” that the penalty for higher drug prices for privately insured consumers was removed, “the law nevertheless puts a substantial check on Big Pharma’s ability to gauge price.”

Schumer plans to begin a Senate vote on the composite bill later on Saturday. The measure faces unanimous Republican opposition, but with the support of Munchkin and Sinema, Democrats should be able to introduce the measure through the Senate 50-50, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote.

The passage of the House may come when that chamber returns from a holiday on Friday for some time.

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