House passes major drug-pricing bill, a Democratic salvo in a showdown far from over

WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Thursday passed sweeping legislation to lower prescription drug prices, marking the latest volley in a health care debate that has animated progressives, Republican lawmakers, pharmaceutical industry groups, and the Trump administration throughout the year. With the GOP-majority Senate certain to ignore Democrats’ bill, however, the high-stakes showdown over drug prices is far from over.

Democrats project that their bill, which would require Medicare to negotiate the price of between 50 and 250 prescription drugs, would lower consumer drug spending by 55%, save the federal government nearly $400 billion, and slash drug industry revenues by $1 trillion in the coming decade. Democrats plan to invest those funds in a historic Medicare expansion that would allow the program to fund hearing, vision, and dental benefits for the first time.

President Trump has vowed he would veto the bill, which passed on a 230-192 vote, largely along party lines. The Senate is still considering a separate, less aggressive bipartisan drug pricing packageStill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose top deputies worked in a largely closed-door process to formulate the legislation, said the bill fulfilled a campaign pledge across the country made prior to the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats are also widely expected to use Pelosi’s legislation as a jumping-off point for drug pricing efforts if the party wins control of the White House or Senate in 2020.

 

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