On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark bill that for the first time would cap out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare enrollees and direct the federal government to negotiate the price of many high-cost, lifesaving medications.
"This bipartisan legislation is a bold step toward lowering prescription drug prices and out-of-pocket costs for millions of older Americans,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief engagement and advocacy officer, who urged the Senate to act on its legislation. “The president and Congress will need to work together to get this done. Americans are desperate for relief from high prescription drug prices."
The 230-192 vote on the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act was largely along party lines with all Democrats voting yes and all but two Republicans voting no. The measure now goes to the U.S. Senate, where lawmakers are considering their own bipartisan bill to rein in the high cost of prescription drugs, a bill which has White House support.
The most groundbreaking feature of the House-passed legislation would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate the price of up to 250 of the most expensive drugs each year. The drugs subject to negotiation would not have generic alternatives.
HHS would also be required to negotiate in the first year the price of insulin, a medication whose cost per patient nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, according to House leaders. The legislation would help lower prices for non-Medicare enrollees, lawmakers say, because commercial insurers could take advantage of the negotiated prices. The bill the Senate Finance Committee approved does not include the requirement for negotiation of Medicare drug prices.