Grassley, Wyden revamp drug-pricing bill, tack on funding for needy families

Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., last week unveiled an updated version of their drug-pricing proposal, as well as a creative plan to get it signed into law, according to STAT

On Dec. 6, they proposed using the bill to fund a variety of health programs, including three years of funding to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and four years to Puerto Rico's Medicaid program. Many of the programs included would end at the end of the year without more money.  

Senate Finance Committee staff told STAT Dec. 6 that they believe coupling the drug-pricing proposal with funding for these programs will persuade Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call a vote on their bill. 

The changes to the drug-pricing bill itself are relatively small, including one that would allow seniors to spread out their payments for prescription drugs over a year rather than pay them immediately at the pharmacy counter. 

Another change would lower the percentage of drug costs seniors must pay after meeting their deductible from 25 percent to 20 percent. 

The changes would slightly alter drugmakers' Medicare reimbursement payments, and instead of paying 20 percent of seniors' drug costs after they meet their out-of-pocket cap of $3,100, starting in 2022 they would only pay 14 percent. However, they would also be responsible for paying 7 percent of a seniors' drug costs after they meet their deductible. So overall, drugmakers would have to pay the same amount as they did under previous versions of the bill. 

One of the most controversial aspects of the bill — a provision that drugmakers cannot increase their prices by more than the rate of inflation — remained in the updated version. 

If the Senate votes on and passes the proposal, President Donald Trump has said he will sign it into law, according to Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan and Council of Economic Advisers acting Chairman Tomas Philipson. 

Read the full article here

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