In a significant victory for health insurers, the House Democratic leadership plans to pass legislation as early as Jan. 12 that would give the Bush administration the authority–but not require it–to negotiate drug prices under Part D of Medicare.
A healthcare and insurance industry lobbyist confirmed the House’s plans and says quick action in the Senate Finance Committee is also possible on similar legislation.
At the same time, the healthcare practice leader at Aon Consulting in Chicago says the 3-page draft proposal being considered by the House leadership contains other provisions that might give the Bush administration pause to support it.
Specifically, the legislation would rescind the non-negotiation language in the 2003 legislation creating the drug benefit program for the elderly, which bars the government from negotiating directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers.
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The decision by the incoming House Democratic leadership was disclosed to National Underwriter on Jan. 3 by lobbyists and confirmed by a congressional staffer familiar with the leadership’s plans.
Under the current plans, the bill will be introduced in the House Jan. 5. Incoming House Majority Leader Stenny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House would take up the bill Jan. 12.
John Jonas, an insurance and healthcare analyst and a senior partner at Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C., confirmed the substance of the House plan and said the Senate Finance Committee is also supportive of the legislation.
He said the Senate panel is planning a hearing on the proposal “relatively early” in the year, likely Jan. 12 or Jan. 18, and “it appears the votes are there to report it to the Senate floor.”
Thomas Lerche, healthcare practice leader at Aon Consulting, said it is his understanding that the bill being considered by the House would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, the flexibility and authority to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients.