“I am calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. Get a bill to my desk, and I will sign it into law without delay.”
President Donald Trump’s call in his State of the Union address got the attention of many Americans dealing with escalating insulin costs and other prescription drug prices. They need help.
It brought cheers from Republicans and rolled eyes from Democrats, who chanted “H.R. 3” in support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s signature drug pricing bill that passed the chamber in December with every Democrat in favor.
Among other provisions, the legislation calls for Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called it socialism and said it won’t pass the Senate, and Trump came out against it, saying it would impose “price controls.”
That was just the latest setback. Democrats have favored other measures to lower prescription drug costs. Trump’s administration last year alone unveiled a list of 25 policies to reduce the costs.
Yet, nothing has been done and this issue is hitting pocket books hard at a time when the economy overall is humming along. It should receive the urgency that Trump called for.
However, as the State of the Union address ended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up the speech as everyone watched. She and other Democrats should have issued a challenge to the president and Republicans to come to the table and reach some common ground.
Since the State of the Union, no urgency regarding this has been seen, and Trump left it out of his budget, saying Congress must deal with it and including an “allowance” of $135 billion for bipartisan policy to low drug costs.
And so it goes as what’s called “pharmaceutical tourism” is gripping the nation, as states are trying creative ways to help sick residents get affordable medical treatment. At least four states have begun what may be a long process to begin importing drugs from Canada under a new Trump administration plan.
How severe is the problem?
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that six in 10 Americans were taking at least one prescription drug, and 79 percent of those surveyed said the cost of the medications were unreasonable.
The report also found that three of 10 Americans did not take their medications as prescribed because they’re worried about the cost.
Is there any hope for relief in 2020, given that we’re in a presidential election year and such years rarely produce significant legislation? There should be, considering that so many Americans will have this on their minds as they prepare to vote.
And how different is it, really, to what just happened to resolve the partisan divide on the historic United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, which sat around for more than a year before the House passed it with bipartisan support a day after the chamber voted to impeach Trump. The reason? Leaders in the House won changes on some provisions as backed by U.S. labor, meaning Democrats and Republicans negotiated a final agreement.
Back to the State of the Union: “One of the single biggest promises I made to the American people was to replace the disastrous NAFTA trade deal,” Trump said. “… This is the first major trade deal in many years to earn the strong backing of America’s labor unions.”
There’s no reason why both sides can’t resolve the impasse over high prescription drug costs and do something for Americans in need. They can both take credit for it, as Trump is known to do.
Seize an opportunity to revisit the best of H.R. 3 and the other ideas and move this forward. Perhaps surprise us in an election year.
— Racine Journal Times