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House Vote Imminent on Prescription Drug Price Relief Bill

December 9, 2019
Press Release
Legislation includes top Welch priority to empower federal government to negotiate lower prices with the pharmaceutical industry.

SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT – At an airport press conference this morning before returning to Washington, Rep. Peter Welch outlined major drug price relief legislation that will be considered by the House on Thursday.

The Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R. 3) will empower the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, saving taxpayers and consumers an estimated $500 billion. Welch has long championed price negotiation legislation in Congress.

He was joined at the press conference by Jericho’s Lanie Kanat whose son is living with Fragile X Syndrome. Also participating were Kelly Stoddard Poor of Vermont AARP and Lisa Ventriss of Vermont Business Roundtable.

“This comprehensive bill will bring long overdue drug price relief to Vermont’s consumers, including families like the Kanats who are struggling to afford lifesaving medicines,” said Welch. “It is a common sense solution that empowers the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices with Big Pharma. There is simply no reason why the federal government, the largest purchaser of drugs in the nation, should pay retail drug prices through the Medicare program. Lower drug prices will provide across-the-board relief to seniors, taxpayers, businesses and consumers.”

H.R 3 empowers the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices on the most expensive and utilized drugs covered by Medicare. Savings achieved from negotiations would be made available to commercial health insurance plans covering the same drugs. The refusal of any drug company to negotiate would result in a steep tax penalty.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would save taxpayers and consumers approximately $500 billion.  Savings would be invested in an expansion of Medicare benefits to cover dental, hearing and vision services; increased funding for research on disease cures and treatments; community health centers; and efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

The bill is named after the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, Welch’s partner on drug price negotiation legislation. Welch and Cummings met with President Trump in March 2017 to urge his support for their bill. 

Welch is a leading advocate in Congress for lower drug prices. He first introduced a price negotiation bill in 2010 and is the lead cosponsor of Rep. Cummings’s price negotiation bill. He is a senior member of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee from which the bill originated.

A summary of the bill can be found here.