Lowering pharmaceutical prices: U.S. Rep. Castor says Democrats will propose allowing Medicare program to negotiate drug prices if they take back the House

Congresswoman Kathy Castor
Congresswoman Kathy Castor

Hillsborough County-area Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor says that President Trump’s recently announced proposal to reduce pharmaceutical drug prices by linking the price Medicare pays to an international pricing index is a worthy idea, but she has absolutely no faith he’ll follow through on it.

“Just like he pronounced early on that ‘I”m going to take on the drug companies,’ and then in a flourish it was ‘problem solved,'” she said on Wednesday.

That was a reference to Trump’s statement in May that he planned to lower prescription drug prices, mostly through regulatory authority. He dubbed it “the most sweeping action in history” to reduce the cost of drugs for consumers.

There was no follow through, however, leaving Democrats skeptical that Trump is serious about a proposal he campaigned on in the 2016 presidential election.

“He backed down from his promise to allow Medicare Part D to negotiate down (drug prices) directly,” Castor said on a conference call with fellow Democratic U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch and Val Demings. “What happens the next day? Big Phama stock prices surged.”

Stock prices for the pharmaceutical companies did soar immediately after the president’s speech back in May, with health care companies like CVS, McKesson and Express Scripts stocks rising 2% to 4%, according to Fortune.

When the GOP-led Congress passed the Medicare drug benefit legislative package in 2003, the law forbade Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Castor vows that will change if the Democrats retake the House next week.

Democrats believe that using the enormous purchasing power of the government’s Medicare program is the best way to get pharmaceutical companies to lower prices for consumers.

“We’re going to craft legislation that requires Medicare to negotiate drug prices. That would be very impactful,” she said, adding that she and her Democratic colleagues would be willing to work with Trump on his latest proposal, but she is doubtful that he’d do anything to upset the big pharmaceutical companies.

The CEO of drug giant Pfizer, Ian Read, told CNBC on Tuesday that he doesn’t support Trump’s latest proposal.

Democratic candidates are running hard this fall on how they’re the better choice for voters when it comes to protecting healthcare. Open enrollment begins today to sign up for the federal Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have been unsuccessful in repealing the Affordable Care Act, but they were able to eliminate the required penalty for anyone who decides to forego health insurance.

More than 1.7 million Floridians rely on the Affordable Care Act, more than in any other state. And while it’s still standing, Democrats say that the Trump administration is doing everything it can to “sabotage” the law, such as allowing individuals and small businesses to purchase “association health plans” that cost less but also offer fewer benefits.

If the Democrats are able to take the majority back in the House of Representatives next week, Castor says she’ll try to get legislation that requires Medicare to negotiate drug prices passed in 2019.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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