Joe Manchin quashes any immediate hopes for major drug pricing reforms
Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday derailed President Biden’s trillion-dollar spending package, effectively halting the Democrats’ best chance yet to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, among a bevy of other health-related provisions tacked onto the Build Back Better Act.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, stunned by Manchin’s announcement on Fox News, said in a statement: “Senator Manchin claims that this change of position is related to inflation, but the think tank he often cites on Build Back Better — the Penn Wharton Budget Institute — issued a report less than 48 hours ago that noted the Build Back Better Act will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures.”
While the drug pricing provisions in the bill may not have been the cause for the West Virginia Democrat’s decision to rebel against his Dem peers, the announcement puts in limbo not only Medicare negotiations, but a cap on insulin costs at $35 per month, a cap on seniors’ out-of-pocket drug spending at $2,000 per year, and other provisions like boosting Obamacare subsidies and closing the Medicaid gap in 12 states.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Monday he would still hold a floor vote on the BBBA early next year, but it’s unlikely to hit the 51 votes necessary for passage without Manchin or any Republican support.
And if Democrats attempt to go the piecemeal route and push the drug pricing provisions as a standalone bill, they’d likely need 60 votes to get there, meaning 10 Republicans would have to join them.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Sunday quickly cobbled together a new framework for the BBBA, including the drug pricing provisions, hoping Manchin might be willing to budge. But Manchin, whose daughter is the former CEO of the generics firm Mylan and who opposes Biden’s nomination of Rob Califf as FDA commissioner, didn’t offer any immediate thoughts on the plan.
“Drug companies have been mugging Americans at the pharmacy window for too long, and there may not be another opportunity anytime soon for Democrats to put a stop to it. Fifty million seniors in Medicare have a lot of bargaining power, and it’s long past due to put it to use,” Wyden wrote.
For many struggling to afford their prescription drugs and insulin, time is of the essence.
Mindy Salango, a type 1 diabetic from Morgantown, WV, said in a statement, “Without Build Back Better, diabetics could still be forced to pay hundreds of dollars on insulin instead of just $35 per month. In the greatest country in the world, we are not meant to beg and depend on the kindness of strangers in order to obtain insulin. This is ‘survival of the richest’ and it must stop.”