Bipartisan drug pricing reform is a better alternative to the partisan tax-and-spend regime


Speech prepared by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

The Grassley Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act: A Better Alternative to Democrats’ Tax Frenzy and Reckless Spending

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Mr. Speaker, this organization has a long history of working together to improve health care for Americans. In 2003, we worked bipartisanly to establish the Medicare Part D benefit.

More recently, I worked with my colleagues on the Finance Committee on oversight investigations to hold EpiPen makers accountable for misusing taxpayers’ money; responsible insulin manufacturers and PBMs, who unfairly increased the list price of insulin; and our responsible organ donation system, investigating its troubling underperformance.

We can work together and significantly improve health care. This Congress, I have worked with my fellow Democrats to introduce eight bills aimed at reducing drug costs.

In the past year alone, we have passed five of my bills out of committee on a bipartisan basis. They will lower drug prices and create more competition – while holding Big Pharma and PBM accountable. Unfortunately, the majority leader did not bring any of these votable bills – even though they would easily pass the Senate.

But that hasn’t stopped me from trying to find other ways to help reduce the cost of medication.

In 2019, as chair of the finance committee, I began a bipartisan committee process with the Oregon ranking member to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. The bill is called the Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act.
We held three committee hearings to learn from policymakers and advocates while holding big pharma and PBMs accountable.

We staged a markup in committee, where the bill passed 19 to 9 – on a bipartisan basis. We continued to hold additional negotiations to make improvements to the bill. It contained things I liked and disliked. But it is bipartisan legislation.

Today, it is still the only comprehensive prescription drug bill that can garner more than 60 votes in the Senate.

I recently laid out on the floor the details of the bill in case the majority party forgot. I won’t repeat every part of my July 20 speech, but here are some of the key measures in my bill:

· It cuts costs for seniors by $72 billion and saves taxpayers $95 billion.

· It sets a reimbursable cap, eliminates the donut hole, and redesigns Medicare Part D.

· It ends taxpayer subsidies to Big Pharma by capping Medicare Part B and D drug price increases at inflation.

· It establishes accountability and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry.

· And the bill is bipartisan.

Believe it or not, a bipartisan bill limiting pharmaceutical increases is possible. Compare that to what the majority proposed:

· Their partisan bill includes more reckless spending and tax increases.

· Their partisan bill reduces the number of new cures and treatments.

· Their partisan bill enacts no bipartisan accountability for Big Pharma & PBMs.

Even though the majority party decided to pursue a purely partisan bill in secret for the past 20 months, I continued to meet with Democrats and Republicans to push my bipartisan, negotiated bill forward.

I met or spoke with: President Biden and White House staff, Speaker Pelosi, Chief McCarthy, HHS Secretary Becerra, House Democrats who wanted a bipartisan bill, the task force on Health Care from the Problem Solvers Caucus, Congressman Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, Congressman McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, Democratic Senators Sinema and Carper and many others.

I wanted a bipartisan bill passed by this Senate. We could still pass the Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act. My colleagues know it. Several of them publicly thanked me for my bipartisan work to lower prescription drug prices.

Unfortunately, they chose another route. They chose a bill that contains no PBM liability. This gives middlemen a free pass. They chose a bill that does not contain any of the 25 provisions on accountability and transparency that had been the subject of bipartisan consensus in my bill. This includes:

· End DIR clawbacks that hurt patient wallets and small independent pharmacies;

· End Medicaid “staggered pricing” that drives up taxpayer costs;

· Demand sunshine on PBMs through financial audits, so we know the true net cost of a drug; and

· Demand sunshine on excessive drug price increases and introductory prices for expensive new drugs.

None of these bipartisan accountability and transparency provisions are included in their bill.

Finally, one last thing I would like to address about my colleagues’ irresponsible tax and spending bill. I have heard some of my colleagues opposite say that the prescription drug provision of this bill is Grassley-Wyden. It’s wrong.

This is an irresponsible tax and spending bill. It’s not bipartisan, and no journalist should accept or repeat that notion. I oppose the partisan bill because it is a long list of irresponsible tax increases and spending.

This is not the bipartisan prescription drug bill that passed the Finance Committee 19 to 9.

Mr President, I tabled the Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act as an amendment today.

We could strike and replace this reckless fiscal and spending spree with comprehensive drug pricing reform that could garner more than 60 votes – and drive down drug prices while holding big pharma and PBMs accountable.

We could actually embrace meaningful accountability and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. I also tabled this amendment.

We could pursue PBM transparency and accountability. I also tabled this amendment.

As I have said throughout this Congress: I will work with anyone who wants to push through the bipartisan and negotiated agreement Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act.



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