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Utah Life Sciences News & Events

Biden’s First Address to Congress Calls for Giving Medicare Power to Negotiate Drug Prices

April 30, 2021

President Joe Biden’s first major joint address to Congress on Wednesday included calls to give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices.

“Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions by negotiating lower prices… we pay the highest drug prices of anywhere in the world right here in America,” Biden said. 

BioUtah and other stakeholders in the biotech/biopharma community believe that federal government price control mechanisms would impede innovation and chill investment in drug discovery that leads to breakthrough new treatments and cures.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices – a key provision of the Democrats’ bill, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, H.R. 3 – would save the program $456 billion over a decade. 

In separate letters to the the President, House and Senate Democrats have been pushing the administration to move legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate prices. They have proposed applying the cost savings to expand coverage as well as lowering the Medicare eligibility age and adding new dentistry, vision and earring benefits.

Republicans have introduced alternative legislation to address high drug costs, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, H.R. 19. Their proposal would use bipartisan reforms to lower out of pocket spending, protect access to new medicines and cures, strengthen transparency, and drive competition.

Although Biden’s sweeping new spending packages do not specifically include an expansion of Medicare and drug pricing authorities, these remain a priority for many Democrats as noted in a letter sent to President Biden by 17 Senators, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

As reported by the Washington Post, Sanders said he would “absolutely” pursue a Medicare expansion as lawmakers begin to consider Biden’s proposals while Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stressed that tackling drug costs remains “one of my top priorities as we work to pass the American Families Plan.”