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Welch, Rooney Introduce Bill Requiring HHS Secretary to Negotiate Medicare Prescription Drug Prices

January 8, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON  – Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) and nine House colleagues today introduced bipartisan legislation that would require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors enrolled in the Medicare Part D program.

When the Part D prescription drug benefit was authorized by Congress in 2003, then House Majority Leader Tom Delay, at the behest of the drug lobby, carved out a sweetheart deal that prohibits the federal government from leveraging the enormous purchasing power of the millions of seniors now enrolled in the program to negotiate lower drug prices and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump voiced strong support for Medicare prescription drug price negotiation, accusing drug companies of “getting away with murder.” In March 2017, Rep. Welch and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) met with President Trump in the Oval Office where he again expressed strong support for price negotiation.

“Leveraging the federal government's enormous purchasing power to cut drug prices for seniors is common sense and long overdue,” said Welch. “Paying retail prices for wholesale drug purchases is ridiculous and irresponsible. If the President is serious about lowering drug prices, he should demand that Congress send our bill to his desk.”

“It is an unconscionable abuse to the American people that pharma does not compete for drugs provided under Medicare Part D,” said Rooney. “We are the defenders of competition and free enterprise, so why not with pharma? Allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for over 43 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D is one of the best solutions to lower medication costs and ensure access to the prescriptions they need. These negotiations will make prescription prices lower for our seniors.”

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that spending on Part D benefits will total $99 billion in 2019. Yet managers of the program, which serves 43 million seniors, are barred from negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry.

In a 2008 report, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform estimated that price negotiation would save taxpayers $156 billion over ten years. Contrary to the Medicare program, the Department of Veterans Affairs negotiates with drug companies for drugs prescribed to veterans. A 2018 report by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee revealed that the Medicare program pays 61 percent higher prices for the 20 most commonly prescribed drugs than the Veterans Administration.

The Welch-Rooney bill is cosponsored Reps. Cummings (D-Md.), Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Castor (D-Fla.), Cicilline (D-R.I.), DeLauro (D-Conn.), Lipinski (D-Ill.), Lynch (D-Mass.), McCollum (D-Minn.), and Pocan (D-Wis).

Rep. Welch is a senior member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee and co-chair of the House Affordable Prescription Drug Task Force. He has authored legislation to allow the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada and to stop anti-competitive drug patent abuses.