Democrats Release Their Own Drug Pricing Proposal

Democrats from the Affordable Prescription Drug Task Force have called on President Trump to endorse their own proposal to combat rising prescription drug prices. “A Better Deal” was released the day before the President’s anticipated speech on the subject. The lawmakers outline the trend of rising prescription drug prices under the Trump administration, while reminding the President of his campaign rhetoric denouncing the pharmaceutical industry and urging him to support their Better Deal strategy. The lawmakers support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices; requiring drug companies to be transparent about their costs of production; eliminating patent system abuse tactics that reduce competition; allowing the importation of prescriptions; and improving trade agreements to make drugs more affordable. The lawmakers also propose the creation of a “price gouging enforcer” that would fine drug companies if price increases surpass a certain threshold. The task force is led by Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Peter Welch, and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) were also in attendance at the unveiling of A Better Deal.

WH Proposes $15 Billion in Claw Backs

President Trump submitted a $15.4 billion rescission request to Congress last week. It is the largest single rescission request from a White House, and the first such request in nearly two decades. The claw back plan would impact previously approved spending across more than 30 programs. All of the money has been appropriated at least one year ago, improving its chance of passage through both chambers of Congress. Roughly half of cuts would come from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The plan would rescind $5.1 billion from the CHIP Children’s Health Insurance Fund, which the White House says expired in September and cannot be legally used, despite the fact that it remains on the government’s balance sheet. The fund reimburses states for certain program expenses. The plan would also rescind $1.9 billion from CHIP’s Child Enrollment Contingency Fund. This pool is used in cases when program enrollment is higher than expected. According to the White House, while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not expect any state to need payment from the fund in fiscal year (FY) 2018, funding would still be available should a state qualify for it. An additional $800 million in cuts would come from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). Other proposed rescissions include $252 million in funding designated for the 2015 Ebola outbreak. Because many of the items included in the request are unneeded or inactive accounts, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that package would only reduce the deficit by approximately $3 billion.

The proposal has been strongly criticized by Democrats, both for the type of programs it targets and for undermining the previously agreed upon work of Congress. The plan is expected to pass the House. It could pass the Senate if every Republican votes in support of passage, given Sen. John McCain’s expected absence from Washington. Lawmakers have 45 days from the receipt of the request to vote on the plan, or a scaled-back version of it, by a simple majority vote.

This package, introduced in Congress as H.R. 3, is expected to be the first of several claw back proposals submitted by the White House this year, though there is no targeted total dollar amount or timeline for future rescissions requests. Administration officials have stated that future proposals would include money appropriated in the most recent spending package passed in March of this year.

CDC Assists in DRC Ebola Response

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has declared an outbreak of Ebola virus, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to release $1 million from its contingency fund to help stop the disease from spreading. Over the last five weeks, the country has seen 21 suspected Ebola cases, including 17 deaths. The outbreak is being monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is one of several global health organizations working with DRC’s Ministry of Health to help respond to the virus.

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