Both Republicans and Democrats are clear in polls that they want government allowed to negotiate lower drug prices. Americans pay nearly three times as much for drugsAs patients in dozens other countries. Over the past two decades, many have been Democratic candidates — including President Joe Biden — have campaigned on enacting such legislation.
This year the polling group at KFFAfter giving them the most common arguments, pro- and con, they asked respondents about their support for drug prices negotiations. Large majority supported the ideaMedicare negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to lower prices for its beneficiaries. This includes 83% of Democrats, 82% independents, and 71% Republicans.
Similarly, in recent polling funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,84% of respondents felt that the government should have the power to limit prices for drugs that can save lives and treat common chronic diseases such as diabetes. (Funding from foundation supports KHN’s journalism.)
No wonder groups linked to PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s trade association, are blanketing the airwaves with ads featuring patients with serious illnesses who say that price negotiation would mean people would not get vital medicinesThey could even die. Voters aren’t buying it: 93% of Americans and 90% of Republicans said they believe that drugmakers would still make enough money to develop drugs if prices were lowered, the KFF poll found. (KHN(This is an editorially independent program by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Why is it that congressional Democrats are settling for weaker, halfway measures to address the problem with sky-high drug costs when public opinion is so united in our politically divided society?
The current proposal on drug prices in Biden’s Build Back Better spending package with support from Congress (so far) contains strong consumer protections — such as limiting out-of-pocket prescription drug payments for Medicare beneficiaries to $2,000 annually and limiting yearly price increases, which have long outpaced inflation.
The provisions regarding allowing government to negotiate lower prices are however a bit limiting, byzantine and distant. The government would identify 100 high cost medicines. choose 10 for price negotiation annuallyThese prices will take effect for the first-time in 2025. It could not negotiate on medicines already on the marketplace. at least nine to 13 yearsDepending on the drug type, it may be.
There are many reasons the public’s strong view on this issue hasn’t translated to more forceful law.
While the idea of drug price negotiations is extremely popular, the benefits of such a program are diffuse — affecting patient pocketbooks here and there. And politicians generally don’t expect to be punished by voters for failing to deliver on this single issue.
On the other side, PhRMA regards drug price negotiation for Medicare as an existential threat to its business — potentially costing billions. It spent $23 million on lobbyingIn the first nine months, the pace is set to surpass the previous record.
As public support for price negotiations has gained momentum in recent years, PhRMA’s campaign donations have been directed with surgical precisionIt needed to have a few moderate or sympathetic Democrats to stop drug price negotiations being made into law.
Although Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona had made it a priority to lower the cost of prescription drugs, a central campaign issue in 2018She helped block a more ambitious House proposal from moving forwardMedicare would have been able to negotiate 250 drug prices and extend those prices to other types of insurance. She did it even though polling in her state showed 94%Arizonans support Medicare negotiating cheaper prices. She received approximately $100,000 in campaign contributionsFrom the industry in 2019-20. One of the top congressional recipients.
Another hurdle is that Democrats have a thin majority in both houses of Congress and some key Democrats, such as New Jersey’s Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego, represent states or districts with many drug manufacturers. Thirteen of the world’s 20 largest manufacturers are located in New Jersey.
Menendez had long declinedto clarify whether he supports Medicare price negotiations. He stated earlier this month that he would support current Democratic proposals. in a carefully worded statementThey did not endorse the practice.
Finally, the role of the pharmaceutical industry in developing covid-19 vaccines has helped to improve the image of the industry. This fall, it has used this accomplishment as an argument. to head off price limitations. “The White House is trying to make it more difficult for our industry to continue the fight against this pandemic and plan for future health crises,” Stephen UblPresident of PhRMA, he stated in a September Statement.
Many health experts and politicians tried to see the half-full view of the Democrats’ plan. “It’s a far cry from what they do in other industrialized countries, but it’s a pretty good first step that would have been unimaginable five years ago,” said Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a professor at Harvard Medical School, who studies drug costs. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “a massive step forward,” though he noted in the same breath that “many of us would have wanted to go much further.”
Public surveys show that most voters agree.
Instead, the plan allows Democrats the opportunity to say that they kept their promise and pass drug price negotiations, however small. And the drugmakers get a distant, narrow program that is unlikely — at least for now — to drastically affect their nice profits.