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Prescription pills shown with $20 bills.

Prescription pills are shown with $20 bills. (Photo: www.ccPixs.com/Flickr/cc)

'Unacceptable': 3 Corporate Dems Threaten to Block Drug Pricing Reform in Reconciliation Bill

"Any lawmaker that tries to stand in the way is on the wrong side of this issue and on the wrong side of their constituents," said one advocacy group.

Julia Conley

Three corporate Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee drew condemnation from progressives on Tuesday after announcing they plan to stand in the way of passing President Joe Biden's Build Back Better legislation if it includes a key provision to allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices—a broadly popular reform that could help millions of Americans save on the medications they need each year.
 
Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) reportedly claimed as the committee was marking up the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, which would invest in human infrastructure, that including Medicare drug price negotiations in the package would keep the legislation from ultimately passing—despite polls showing the provision has widespread support.

"Without this key reform, we'll continue to pay unsustainable amounts for prescription drugs, and have less money for key investments like expanding Medicare benefits, fighting climate change, and more."
—Indivisible

 
"I do not support advancing policies that are not fiscally responsible and jeopardize the bill's final passage," said Rice, while Peters said he had proposed his own drug pricing negotiation scheme.
 
As Biden said last month in remarks about the Build Back Better plan, Americans currently pay two to three times more than people in other wealthy countries for prescription drugs. One in four struggle to afford prescriptions and 30% of Americans report having cut pills in half or skipping doses to save money.
 
"Right now, drug companies will set a price at whatever the market will bear," said the president. "But that often means a significant number of people can't afford it under any circumstance and they'll die without it. That's unacceptable."
 
"What we're proposing is that we'll negotiate a base—negotiate with the company based on a fair price, one that reflects the costs of the research and development and the need for... a profit, but that's still affordable for consumers," Biden added.
 
As research conducted in August by progressive think tank Data for Progress, Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, and Protect Our Care shows, majorities of voters in all 435 congressional districts support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
 
Ninety percent of Rice's constituents support the provision, while only 18% believe the argument long made by pharmaceutical companies that allowing negotiation by Medicare will "harm innovation."
 
Similar poll results were found in Peters' and Schrader's districts, Protect Our Care reported on Tuesday.
 
"Any lawmaker that tries to stand in the way is on the wrong side of this issue and on the wrong side of their constituents," the group tweeted.
 
"Without this key reform, we'll continue to pay unsustainable amounts for prescription drugs, and have less money for key investments like expanding Medicare benefits, fighting climate change, and more," said Indivisible.
 
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, all three lawmakers have accepted campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. Peters and Schrader have both accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the pharmaceutical industry this election cycle. Pharmaceutical companies are the top contributors to Peters' campaign in the 2021-22 cycle, donating more than $88,000 so far.
 
The three lawmakers' decision to side with corporations that aim to protect their profits at the expense of millions of Americans was called "unacceptable" by the healthcare advocacy coalition Lower Drug Prices Now.
 
"Rep. Kathleen Rice is putting Big Pharma profits before the 90% of her constituents in favor of reform by REFUSING to support H.R. 3 as part of the Build Back Better agenda," said the coalition.
 
Advocates called on constituents to demand that the three lawmakers support the popular provision, known as H.R. 3 or the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, in the reconciliation package.
 
"Tell them to stand with the people, not Big Pharma," said Center for Popular Democracy Action.

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