- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced Tuesday the latest offer in the ongoing fight over allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs. 

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, told reporters at the Capitol that a broad agreement has been reached to include the proposal in President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate-change bill. 

“Fixing prescription drug pricing has consistently been a top issue for Americans year after year,” said Mr. Schumer. “Today we’ve taken a massive step forward in helping alleviate that problem by empowering Medicare directly [to] negotiate prices … [and] make sure our country’s drug pricing system benefits patients, not corporations.”

Under the agreement, Medicare would be given the ability to negotiate the price of 10 life-saving drugs starting in 2023. The list of drugs eligible for negotiation would increase over time. 

Seniors would also get a rebate for the price of drugs that rise higher than the rate of inflation. The deal further caps out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries to $2,000 per year. 

While further details remain sparse, the agreement appears to have tentative support of at least one high-profile swing vote: Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

“The senator welcomes a new agreement on a historic, transformative Medicare drug negotiation plan that will reduce out-of-pocket costs for seniors,” said John LaBombard, a spokesman for Ms. Sinema.

It remains to be seen whether the proposal will garner the support of another key swing vote, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. 

Although Mr. Manchin remained mum on the topic, Mr. Biden said he is confident that the senator’s support will be there when the time comes. 

“He will vote for this if we have in this proposal what he has anticipated, and that is looking at the fine print and the detail of what comes out of the House in terms of the actual legislative initiatives. I believe Joe will be there,” Mr. Biden said at a press conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where he was attending a U.N. climate change summit.

Apart from the Senate, the prescription drug scheme faces long odds within the House. A cadre of moderate Democrats within the chamber has long opposed the policy, saying it would decimate innovation within the pharmaceutical sector. 

At least one of them, though, is backing the new policy. 

“Well, it’s a huge improvement because it doesn’t stifle innovation,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat. “This is the sweet spot between making sure drug companies can’t get away with ripping consumers off and at the same time [they] get to be able to recoup their investment from these pretty amazing medications, like COVID-19 vaccines, that they come up with.” 

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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