WASHINGTON — Nevada Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford are among 15 Democrats urging House leaders to include cuts to prescription drug prices in a $1.7 trillion spending bill.
The bill championed by President Joe Biden — known as Build Back Better — could come up for a vote as early as this week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the House continues to “move forward” on the sweeping legislation, but did not address specific programs or disagreements that could delay passage of the bill.
One proposal being considered would limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation and cap out-of-pocket costs to seniors under Medicare.
About 500,000 million Nevada residents are enrolled in Medicare, and about 70 percent, or 300,000 people, receive prescription drugs through Medicare Part D, according to the Social Security Administration.
A letter with the demand for a prescription drug benefit was sent over the weekend by lawmakers who helped Democrats regain control of the House in 2018 and hold it in the past election.
They face challenges in their competitive districts in 2022 midterm elections.
“We ran on upsetting the status quo and lowering out-of-pocket costs for health care and prescription drugs,” the lawmakers said.
“If we fail, we’ll have to explain to them (constituents) why we let Big Pharma win, why we let entrenched special interests take precedence over the American people,” the lawmakers wrote.
Moderates and progressive Democrats are seeking the pricing measure, over objections of the pharmaceutical industry and other key Democrats who have sought to slash the original price tag on the bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.7 trillion.
The $1.7 trillion social spending package includes tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals, and increased Internal Revenue Service enforcement of tax laws to offset the cost and allow Democrats to pass the legislation under budget reconciliation rules that would avoid a Senate filibuster.
A prescription drug pricing cut was not included in the original Build Back Better package, and efforts to add legislative language now, and raise the cost to the bill, could be a difficult hurdle to clear.
Republicans in both the House and Senate oppose the social spending package over its $555 billion for clean energy and climate change initiatives and programs that GOP lawmakers say benefit Democratic donors and special interests.
Plans to lower prescription drug costs for seniors have also been championed by Republican lawmakers, who have proposed legislation to cap price increases through Medicare reform.
Negotiations over the weekend included proposed modifications of Medicare Part D, providing hope to supporters that some measures to cut and cap drug costs to seniors will be included in the final version of the bill.
“We’re trying to make sure that these prescription drugs aren’t a financial ball and chain that seniors and others are carrying around,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Monday.
Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters that negotiations were on a bicameral basis. Topics included government-negotiated prices for insulin.
One of the negotiators was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, has been a key moderate in legislative compromises being brokered by the White House over disagreements within the Democratic Party.
Although Lee, Horsford and other lawmakers in competitive districts want some prescription drug benefit in the package, other lawmakers, like Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., also support the measure.
Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats, backed legislation this year to cut drug costs.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., has said that while he supports measures in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he is opposed to coupling it with the larger social spending package which he has called a “left-wing wish list” of health care, labor and other wasteful spending programs.