Mr. President, this body has a long record of coming together to improve health care for Americans. In 2003, we worked in a bipartisan manner to establish the Medicare Part D benefit.
More recently, I’ve worked with my Finance Committee colleagues on oversight investigations to hold EpiPen manufacturers accountable, who were misusing taxpayer dollars; insulin manufacturers and PBMs accountable, who were unfairly increasing the list price of insulin; and our organ donation system accountable, by investigating its troubling underperformance.
We can work together and meaningfully improve health care. This Congress, I’ve worked with my Democrat colleagues to introduce eight bills to lower drug costs.
In the past year alone, we’ve passed five of my bills out of committee on a bipartisan basis. They will lower drug prices and create more competition – while holding Big Pharma and PBMs accountable. Unfortunately, the majority leader hasn’t brought any of these bills up for a vote – even though they would easily pass the Senate.
But this hasn’t stopped me from trying to find other ways to help bring down the cost of medications.
In 2019, as Finance Committee chairman, I began a bipartisan committee process with the Ranking Member from Oregon to lower the cost of prescription drugs. The bill is called the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act.
We held three committee hearings to learn from policymakers and advocates while also holding Big Pharma and PBMs accountable.
We held a committee mark-up, where the bill passed 19 to 9 – on a bipartisan basis. We continued to hold additional negotiations to make improvements to the bill. It contained stuff I liked and didn’t like. But that’s bipartisan legislation.
Today, it’s still the only comprehensive prescription drug bill that can garner more than 60 votes on the Senate floor.
I recently outlined on the floor the bill’s details in case the majority party has forgotten. I won’t restate every part of my July 20th speech, but here are some of my bill’s key measures:
- It lowers costs for seniors by $72 billion and saves taxpayers $95 billion.
- It establishes an out-of-pocket cap, eliminates the donut hole and redesigns Medicare Part D.
- It ends taxpayer subsidies to Big Pharma by capping price increases of Medicare Part B and D drugs at inflation.
- It establishes accountability and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry.
- And the bill is bipartisan.
Believe it or not, a bipartisan bill limiting pharmaceutical increases is possible. Compare this to what the majority has offered:
- Their partisan bill includes more reckless spending and tax increases.
- Their partisan bill reduces the number of new cures and treatments.
- Their partisan bill fails to enact any bipartisan accountability for Big Pharma & PBMs.
Even while the majority party has decided to pursue a purely partisan bill in secret over the past 20 months, I’ve continued to meet with Democrats and Republicans to advance my bipartisan and negotiated bill.
I’ve met or spoken with: President Biden & White House staff, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, HHS Secretary Becerra, House Democrats who wanted a bipartisan bill, the Problem Solvers Caucus Health Care Working Group, Congressman Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, Democrat Senators Sinema and Carper and many others.
I wanted a bipartisan bill to pass this Senate. We could still pass the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. My colleagues know it. Several of them have thanked me publicly on my bipartisan work to lower prescription drug prices.
Sadly, they’ve chosen a different route. They’ve chosen a bill that contains zero PBM accountability. It gives middlemen a pass. They’ve chosen a bill that contains none of the 25 accountability and transparency provisions that had bipartisan consensus in my bill. This includes:
- Ending DIR clawbacks that are hurting patients’ pocketbooks and small/independent pharmacies;
- Ending “spread pricing” in Medicaid that is driving up taxpayer costs;
- Requiring sunshine on PBMs through financial audits, so we know the true net cost of a drug; and
- Requiring sunshine on excessive drug-price increases and launch prices of new high-cost drugs.
None of these bipartisan accountability and transparency provisions are included in their bill.
Finally, one last thing I would like to address about my colleagues’ reckless tax and spending bill. I’ve heard some of my colleagues on the other side say this bill’s prescription drug provision is Grassley-Wyden. That is untrue.
This is a reckless tax and spending bill. It’s not bipartisan, and no reporter should accept or repeat that notion. I oppose the partisan bill because it’s a long list of reckless tax increases and spending.
This is not the bipartisan prescription drug bill that passed out of the Finance Committee 19 to 9.
Mr. President, I’ve filed the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act as an amendment today.
We could strike and replace this reckless tax and spending spree with comprehensive drug-pricing reform that could garner more than 60 votes – and lower drug prices while holding Big Pharma and PBMs accountable.
We could actually enact meaningful accountability and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve filed that amendment too.
We could pursue PBM transparency and accountability. I’ve filed that amendment too.
As I’ve said throughout this Congress: I will work with anyone who wants to pass the bipartisan and negotiated Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act.