April 30, 2021
In his speech before Congress, the President gave a full-throated endorsement for Congress to “give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower prescription drug prices” and to use the savings to “strengthen the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare coverage benefits.”
But will employers benefit? The President noted that “it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone,” not just those on Medicare, which suggests he supports enabling employer plans to have access to negotiated prices.
While Biden’s American Families Plan only called for permanently extending the ACA subsidies, his call for Congress to act on drug prices will provide momentum to supporters to push for something in the infrastructure bill. Congress is also holding two hearings on lowering drug prices next week.
Will the drug pricing push by Biden and progressives be enough to push a bill past the finish line? A number of Democrats are concerned about taking on the pharmaceutical industry, and they clearly have more work to do to get consensus around what health care reforms to put in the infrastructure bill. The razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate also mean it will be very tough to pass anything.
Outlook: It is unclear how much of Speaker Pelosi’s preferred bill (H.R. 3) can actually be enacted through the budget reconciliation process or if only some provisions qualify under the Senate’s rules.