Washington: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is keeping a campaign promise she made fifteen years ago.
Pelosi pledged to achieve six policy goals in the areas of national security, energy, education, and health care when she first assumed the speaker’s gavel in 2007. In the first 100 hours after taking office, she passed six bills. Up until Friday, when the House enacted significant health care, tax, and climate change package by a vote of 220 to 207, the only pledge that didn’t become law was allowing Medicare to bargain for prescription medications.
“We have fought for years to pass legislation that would allow the Secretary to bargain for cheaper costs. The Congress was under the control of Big Pharma, thus we were unable to pass it. Up until now,” Pelosi told journalists on Friday.
The legislation that the House approved would permit Medicare to bargain prices for a select group of expensive medications starting in 2026; penalise drug manufacturers that raise prices faster than inflation for Medicare patients starting in October for some medications and January for others; cap out-of-pocket pharmacy drug costs for Medicare patients at $2,000 per year starting in 2025; and cap out-of-pocket insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries at $35 per year starting in 2023.
The final forms of those drug pricing measures were greatly influenced by Pelosi’s perseverance and that of her staff. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined the changes in the autumn when the White House gave up and declared it was too impossible, thanks in large part to Pelosi.
Among the fall, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined the reform movement when the White House gave up and said that it was too impossible to achieve agreement on medication price in the Democratic caucus.
Pelosi was serious. She is wholly dedicated to this. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) at the time observed that “[it] obviously can make a tremendous difference at critical occasions. Welch has long been a supporter of drug pricing reform and is currently a member of the House leadership group.
Pelosi managed to keep her caucus in line on Friday with minimal room for mistake, despite having to quell moderate members who supported pharmaceutical companies’ positions in a dramatic committee vote in September and again during a floor vote on the policy in November.
However, Pelosi cannot take all of the credit for the bill’s success.
The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) negotiated with moderates in his caucus and shepherded the package through a procedural minefield in recent months, despite having no room for mistake in the finely divided chamber, which is why the House vote was far less dramatic this time. Last November, the White House took part in discussions as well.
The pharmaceutical sector, which vigorously opposed the reforms, lost with the vote on Friday.
Undoubtedly more modest than Pelosi had originally intended, the policy that was approved on Friday. For instance, the bargaining process saves the government about $100 billion over ten years as opposed to $460 billion in an early version of the measure that Pelosi supported in 2019.
Even while the policies won’t fully take effect for years, it’s still a victory that Democrats can highlight on the campaign trail as Pelosi’s caucus urgently fights to retain control in the midterm elections in November.
The midterm elections will be close, and it’s feasible that the pharmaceutical industry could intervene to favour Republican candidates as payback for the Democrats’ aggressive drug pricing initiatives. Democrats who support the plan “will not get a free ride,” PhRMA President and CEO Steve Ubl has openly vowed, but Pelosi brushed off his warning on Friday.
“It’s noteworthy that the head of Big Pharma claimed that the Democrats will foot the bill for this. Really? for bringing down the price of prescription drugs for families in America? “Okay,” she chuckled.