Democrats forward on drug costs, eye broader take care of Manchin

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Democratic leaders have finalized an amended proposal to lower prescription drug prices for the elderly, part of a broader scramble to please Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and revive a long stalled economic package that they hope will move forward soon this summer. .

The development comes after weeks of private talks between Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) and Manchin, a center holder with spending concerns related to a bill formerly known as the Better Rebuilding Act. It requires Democrats to start a significant part of the legislative process around their agenda, even as they squabble with the West Virginia legislator over other plans to reduce healthcare costs. healthcare and combat climate change.

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The retooled prescription drug pricing proposal is largely similar to the blueprint Democrats put forward last year, according to three people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe describe discussions. It typically empowers the US government to negotiate the prices of certain drugs on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries, a move that Democrats say will reduce costs in the years to come.

Under the proposal, negotiations on the drug would begin in 2023, according to details obtained by The Washington Post. Democrats have also reserved a plan to cap the cost of seniors’ drugs under Medicare at $2,000 per year, while penalizing companies for raising prescription prices faster than inflation.

For the first time, however, the New Democrats aim to close what they see as a loophole that could allow future administrations to drastically refrain from negotiating, according to the documents. The move is intended to ensure the government still manages to keep drug prices down even as Washington’s control shifts, as Republicans have long opposed these negotiating powers, said one of the people familiar with the matter. this topic said. Democrats also plan to extend support further to more low-income seniors, hoping to help them cover their premiums and copays.

Manchin openly supports his party’s last-ditch effort to lower drug prices for seniors. Since then, he has repeatedly said he remains committed to the idea, especially as costs across the economy are rising. However, despite his comments, other Democrats remain uneasy about his preferences – a reflection of chaotic negotiations, change and expansion between moderate West Virginians and members of his party.

Democrats still hope to pass a drug pricing plan as part of a larger economic package that they will move through the narrowly divided Senate using a process known as mediation. The move allows the party to pass a GOP vote — but only if every Democrat, Manchin included, joins in with the support of Vice President Harris’s discord vote.

Privately, Schumer told members in his caucus that a quick resolution would allow them to put a new bill on the floor by the end of July, one of the sources said. To that end, Democrats plan to present their new drug pricing proposal as soon as this week to the Senate, sources said. That seemingly bureaucratic move has huge implications: The head of the governing body’s authority has the power to decide if lawmakers’ plans meet strict rules on mediation. or not, it restricts the law to proposals that have a direct budget impact.

This process is lengthy and complex. and if the proposed drug pricing is not covered, it could lead to complete removal from the Democrats’ final measure. Similar concerns loom large over the party’s efforts to tackle drug costs last year, particularly their proposals to cap insulin prices, the fate of which remains unclear. while bipartisan negotiations are still underway.

Sam Runyon, a spokesman for Manchin, said in a statement that the senator “has long supported proposals that would reduce the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and his support for the proposal.” He’s happy that all 50 Democrats agree.”

A Schumer spokesman declined to comment, referring to the Democratic leader’s comment last week that the two had “a very good and productive discussion,” although “a number of issues remain.” must be resolved.”

New effort among Democrats to restore their agenda reflects the political and economic urgency of the moment. For more than a year, party lawmakers have been trying to deliver on promises they made in the last election, including a pledge to reduce drug costs. But for the most part they have been unable to do so, thwarted by one of their own members – an opposition many Democrats fear could see them lose control of Congress next November. .

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Manchin has maintain resistance to spending as much as what the original Democrats sought in their proposal to call the Rebuild Better Act, once valued at around $2 trillion. Such spending, he argues, could add to debt and exacerbate inflation when costs have skyrocketed. The senator’s position has put him at odds with others in his party, who maintain their original bills were paid in full with new federal revenue and may have helped families. families deal with their biggest source of financial stress.

However, Democrats cannot proceed without Manchin’s vote, a fact that has forced them to sacrifice some of their most prized proposals – including those offering free kindergarten. fees, reduce childcare costs, provide cheaper aged care, allow family to receive national salary and medical leave, and invest heavily in housing. They are now exploring a much smaller package, one largely focused on reducing drug costs, investing in green energy and making some changes to the tax code that could help reduce the deficit.

Many of that remains unresolved in the Manchin-Schumer negotiations, including a plan to extend enhanced subsidies to millions of Americans who buy health insurance through the original national exchanges. was established by the Affordable Care Act, the sources said. Without a solution, more than 13 million people could see premiums rise next year.

With drug pricing, Democrats have settled once again on ensuring access to all free vaccines for seniors in Medicare, who currently lack those benefits, according to the cost. Plan details are viewed by The Post. It further extends premium and copay assistance to a larger portion of low-income elderly Americans. And the initiative aims to spur investment in generic drugs that could provide additional savings for seniors, the sources said.

Meanwhile, Democrats have sought to work with Republicans on a separate, independent measure to provide financial relief to people with diabetes. The House this spring passed a bill to limit insulin costs, and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) make their own suggestions This month make additional modifications to the system. Schumer has pledged to put it on the floor for a vote, though it remains unclear whether it can win the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to avoid a scandal.

Rachel Roubein contributed to this report.

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