With inflation rising and midterm elections just months away, Democrats are desperate for something they can pitch to voters as a reason to keep them in control of Congress.
They’re hoping a watered-down version of their Build Back Better Act could do the trick. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., who helped shoot the bill down last winter, has met repeatedly with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in recent weeks in an effort to hash out a compromise on the massive spending package.
Reports indicate a proposal to give Medicare the power to “negotiate” drug prices could be a key feature of any compromise. Sen. Manchin recently stated that drug pricing reform is “the one thing that must be done.” He’s urged fellow lawmakers to take action on drug price negotiations and “keep the promises [they’ve] made to our seniors.”
But these “negotiations” are just price controls in disguise. As such, they’d decimate medical innovation and deprive patients of access to lifesaving medications.
It’s long been a Democratic goal to give government the ability to set drug prices. The most recent iteration of Build Back Better would empower federal bureaucrats to “negotiate” prices for certain high-cost medications without generic competition under Medicare Parts B and D.
A more accurate term for what Democrats have in mind would be “coercion.” Under the proposal, the government could levy a 95% excise tax on total sales of a drug if a pharmaceutical company refused to participate in the negotiating charade.
That leaves drugmakers with two options. They can accept the government-dictated price, or lose nearly every penny of sales on a medication.
While there are limits on which and how many drugs’ prices officials can set each year, there’s no limit to how many drugs’ prices they could fix over time. If BBB passes, 100 drugs will have been open to negotiation by 2030.