Members of the House voted 255-170 to pass H.R. 4, a bill that directs the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower Medicare plan prescription prices directly with drug manufacturers.
All 231 participating Democrats voted for the bill, and 24 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for it. But opponents of the bill are predicting supporters will have a hard time rounding up the 60 votes needed in the Senate to get the bill to the Senate floor.
The Bush administration Thursday said the president will veto H.R. 4 if it gets through Congress.
The bill was introduced by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In the Senate, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Thursday during a Finance Committee hearing that he would prefer to support a bill that would merely remove current restrictions on efforts by the federal government to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers.
“The ‘non-interference clause’ in the original Medicare Modernization Act is prohibiting us from pursuing constructive efforts to make the benefit work better for seniors,” Baucus said. “The total prohibition on negotiation should be eliminated.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the most senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and the sponsor of the Senate’s Medicare drug plan bill, praised Baucus’s proposal.