Sen. Sinema on board with drug price provision in Democrats’ domestic plan

Nov 2, 2021, 1:29 PM

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona agreed Tuesday to include prescription drug price controls in Democrats’ climate change and social safety net bill, moving President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda package closer to a vote.

A statement from Sinema’s office said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reached out over the weekend to work on a provision to let Medicare negotiate drug prices. Spokesman John LaBombard said the issue had been left out of the initial reconciliation package framework at the request of House Democrats.

“The senator welcomes a new agreement on a historic, transformative Medicare drug negotiation plan that will reduce out-of-pocket costs for seniors – ensuring drug prices cannot rise faster than inflation – save taxpayer dollars, and protect innovation to ensure Arizonans and Americans continue to have access to life-saving medications and new cures and therapeutics,” LaBombard said.

Arizona’s other U.S. Senator, Democrat Mark Kelly, said lowering prescription drug prices was one of his top priorities. He said he’s been working on the plan with the White House and colleagues in both chambers of Congress for the past week.

“We’ve now reached an agreement that will drive down prescription drug prices, lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors and prevent price gouging,” Kelly said in a statement.

“This will be a big win for Arizona seniors and I’ll keep working to get it over the finish line.”

Polling released last month by OH Predictive Insights found that an overwhelming majority of Arizonans, regardless of party, wanted Congress to do something about prescription drug prices.

“In fact, 67% of voters would view a member of Congress that takes action to lower drug prices more favorably,” Mike Noble, chief of research and managing partner for the Phoenix-based research firm, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Oct. 12.

“Even Congress members of a voter’s differing political party who take action to lower drug prices would still enjoy the support of 59% of Arizona voters.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged the agreement isn’t as sweeping as Democrats had hoped for, but a compromise as the party moves closer to wrapping up negotiations on Biden’s plan.

The deal caps out-of-pocket Medicare costs at $2,000 and reduces the price of insulin, salvaging a campaign promise as part of Biden’s $1.75 trillion domestic policy proposal.

Schumer said Medicare will be able to negotiate prescription drug prices in its Part B and Part D program for the first time. He also said insulin prices would fall from as high as $600 a dose to $35.

Democrats are rushing to overcome party battles and finish a final draft of the big package. Pelosi said privately Tuesday she expects to wrap up a draft by midday and pave the way for voting as soon as Thursday, according to her remarks at a closed-door caucus meeting. But no votes have been scheduled.

The $1.75 trillion package is sweeping in its reach, and would provide large numbers of Americans with assistance to pay for health care, education, raising children and caring for elderly people in their homes. It also would provide some $555 billion in tax breaks encouraging cleaner energy and electrified vehicles, the nation’s largest commitment to tackling climate change.

Much of its costs would be covered with higher taxes on people earning over $10 million annually and large corporations, which would now face a 15% minimum tax in efforts to stop big business from claiming so many deductions they end up paying zero in taxes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sen. Sinema on board with drug price provision in Democrats’ domestic plan