The White House sees an opening for a drug pricing deal with House Democrats before the end of President Donald Trump’s first term—provided impeachment doesn’t derail the entire process.
The White House Domestic Policy Council is working through technical aspects of a Medicare negotiation bill backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (H.R. 3), Joe Grogan, director of the council and former Gilead Sciences lobbyist, said at Friends of Cancer Research and Prevision Policy’s Oct. 7 biopharma conference.
“The House deserves credit for getting into the fight,” he said. “It’s an ambitious bill, but we’re not quite ready to pull the trigger on a full decision.”
Health care remains at the top of the Trump administration’s domestic policy agenda, Grogan confirmed. The White House will be rolling out major health policy announcements every week to every three weeks until the end of the first term, he added. Grogan said he spends about 20% to 50% of his time on health-care policy.
“The president’s charge to make us the party of health care will be met and exceeded,” he said.
Pelosi’s bill would direct the HHS secretary to negotiate with drugmakers to lower the price of as many as 250 of the costliest brand-name drugs lacking generic or biosimilar competitors on the market.
The only “absolute red line” would be any proposal that would add money to the Affordable Care Act, Grogan said.
For now, Grogan said the White House is working with Pelosi’s staff to find common ground moving forward.
The White House is also working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has advanced legislation (S. 2543) that would penalize pharmaceutical companies for raising prices faster than the rate of inflation. Drug pricing legislation likely wouldn’t have advanced without Grassley’s leadership, Grogan said.
“We’re very happy that senator Grassley took the lead,” he said.
While Grogan said the White House is willing to work with Democrats, impeachment proceedings could derail the negotiations.
“We’ll see how all this stuff around impeachment ends. But assuming that it all just fizzles and explodes, the Democrats will have absolutely nothing to show for their tenure. So they’re going to need to come together quickly on some policy the president can sign,” he said.
When asked for comment, Pelosi’s office referred to her Oct. 2 press conference transcript, in which she said the impeachment inquiry has nothing to do with Democratic priorities such as lowering prescription drug costs.
“He says that he wants to lower the cost of prescription drugs. The American people want us to do that, so is the president saying, ‘If you question my actions, I can’t agree on any subject,’ then the ball is in his court on that,” she said.