Several high-profile Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill to let Medicare negotiate drug prices, saying they are frustrated the measure hasn’t received a full-throated endorsement from Trump.
“Well, the campaign is over,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Clip shows Larry David and Bernie Sanders reacting after discovering they’re related For now, Trump dossier creates more questions than answers MORE (I-Vt.) said at a press conference. “He’s president now. We need him to join us in taking on the pharmaceutical industry.”
The new legislation, introduced in both the House and the Senate, would allow the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate directly with drug companies in an effort to lower prices for those in Medicare’s prescription drug program — and release a public report after each negotiation period.
It’s a policy some Democrats have long supported and Republicans oppose. But on the campaign trail, Trump suggested he favored it.
In January 2016, Trump told a crowd in Farmington, N.H., that the policy would save billions.
“We don’t do it. Why? Because of the drug companies,” Trump said, according to The Associated Press.
Democrats saw an opening for common ground.
Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMich. governor stands by Flint health crisis testimony Cummings: Voter fraud commission will ‘suppress the vote’ House Dems call for Kobach’s removal from voter fraud commission MORE (D-Md.) and Peter WelchPeter WelchLawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill It’s time to eliminate the secretive Pharmacy Benefit Manager pricing practices Trump is ‘open’ to ObamaCare fix, lawmakers say MORE (D-Vt.) met with Trump on March 8 and gave him draft language of the bill unveiled Wednesday. The pair sent two subsequent letters to Trump on the matter but didn’t hear back, and expressed their disappointment in a third letter made public on Wednesday.
“The truth is that we have made every possible effort to collaborate with you in good faith for the better part of this year,” said Cummings, reading from the third letter at the press conference. “Unfortunately, our efforts were met with radio silence.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The White House in a readout of the March meeting said Trump “expressed his desire to work” with Cummings to make drug prices more affordable. The readout notably omitted mention of letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, instead referring to Food and Drug Administration reforms and a reduction of the “regulatory burdens” on manufacturers as a way to increase competition.
When asked on Wednesday if the bill has a chance at passing Congress without Trump’s support, Cummings said “it has to have Trump’s support, no doubt about it.”
A powerful drug industry trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), pushed back on the new legislation, saying it would let the government decide what medicines patients can get, undermine competition and lead to price controls.