President Joe Biden's call for authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices has energized Democrats on a politically popular idea they've been pushing for nearly 20 years only to encounter frustration.But they still lack a clear path to enact legislation. That's because a small number of Democrats remain uneasy over government price curbs on pharmaceutical companies.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will need every Democratic vote in a narrowly divided Congress. Otherwise Democrats may have to settle for a compromise that stops short of their goal. Or they could take the issue into the 2022 midterm elections. "There is a path," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., one of Pelosi's lieutenants. "
But there's also a challenge, and the challenge is we've got razor-thin margins." "This is not a done deal," continued Welch. "We've got a president and a speaker, but 'pharma' is very powerful." Pharma is a nickname for the industry and for its main lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA.
The industry thwarted President Donald Trump's multi-pronged efforts to constrain its pricing power. Even though Trump came into office accusing drug makers of "getting away with murder" and vowing he'd put a stop to it, the companies emerged from his term with just a few nicks and cuts.
The industry lobbying group PhRMA is considered one of the most skilled operators in Washington. Its mission: to preserve a clause in the 2003 law that created Medicare's pharmacy benefit barring the government from interfering in price negotiations among drugmakers and insurers. That was enacted before $1,000 pills became old hat.
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