Health

Drug users launch ‘Hail Mary’ campaign to sink reconciliation bill

The gathering, the annual planning meeting for the industry’s most prominent trade group, was held at the Conrad Washington Hotel last week — hosting leaders from some of the largest drugmakers in the country.

With Democrats passing the reconciliation bill, a routine meeting of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, board members turned into an opportunity to reach out to allies in the House and Senate.

Several lobbyists representing pharmaceutical interests spoke to POLITICO about the mood on K Street about lobbying efforts, and most spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about their work.

The stakes are high for Democrats to make good on key promises to contain health care costs ahead of November’s midterm elections, marking a major victory in the party’s 20-year goal of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Despite the industry’s legendary clout, momentum appears to be building for a deal that was sealed Wednesday night with the Senate Majority Leader’s announcement of an agreement. Chuck Schumer And the Senate Democrat most skeptical of the reconciliation bill, Joe Mancini in West Virginia, which includes once-repealed taxes and climate measures.

Democrats are desperate to revive whatever ambitious agenda President Joe Biden laid out early in his presidency. The drug pricing provisions would also save the government $288 billion over the next decade, which could be used to fund other priorities. Using the budget reconciliation process, Democrats can pass a drug pricing plan with just 50 Senate votes. They have a deadline of September 30, and senators will leave for the August recess after next week.

“We owe it to our members”

The drug industry has spent millions of dollars over the past two years to repeatedly oppose drug pricing plans and will now use “every tool [it] should be withdrawn” of the reconciliation bill, Brian Newell, PhRMA spokesman, said in an emailed statement.

PhRMA “continues our aggressive engagement with Hill,” he said, “to remind lawmakers of the significant flaws in this bill.”

This week, it’s the biotech innovation organization’s turn to travel to Capitol Hill, as executives from the industry group’s member companies fly in for their board meetings.

For BIO’s small and medium-sized member companies, “policy changes can mean your company really sinks or swims, and that’s a bit lost on many of Hill’s employees who may only be familiar with larger companies.” said Nick Shipley, BIO’s Chief Advocacy Officer.

The group will continue to urge lawmakers to vote on the bill while Medicare is still being negotiated. However, part of BIO’s advocacy strategy also includes harm mitigation policies.

“It doesn’t mean you back off the opposition, it doesn’t mean you lay down and just let it go,” Shipley said. “But if we have the opportunity to seek real improvements to the bill, we will. This is what we owe to our members.”

One of the changes sought by the group includes repealing a provision in the Republicans’ 2017 tax law that would have forced companies to write off research and development expenses over several years, rather than claiming it in one year. The provision was in previous versions of the reconciliation bill and has broad support.

Former Rep. Ron Klink (D-Penn.), now a lobbyist for Nelson Mullins, who counts PhRMA as a client, joked to POLITICO that he’s giving up on the reconciliation bill anytime soon — including criticizing former colleagues about drug pricing. Proposals at the Democratic Club when he’s in town.

“Here’s an industry that helped us get out of the plague and put America back to work, and you’re screwing them over,” he said with a laugh, recounting his conversations at a private club near Capitol Hill. “And of course they don’t take it that well, but we’re good friends and they put up with it.”

While Klink believes the drug pricing plan is bad for patients and the pharmaceutical industry — and could lead to companies moving operations overseas — he said he understands why Democrats feel the need to pass it.

“I’ve been in those rooms when it comes down to it,” he said. “They sit there and say, ‘Look, we can either hang together, we can hang separately. And if we don’t pass something, we’re going to break our backs in November.”

The industry has combined its shoe leather lobbying with advertising campaigns aimed at taking the issue to lawmakers.

PhRMA and National Association of Manufacturers, which counts drug companies among its members, is running TV and digital ads that reinforce a long-held argument: The measure will slow innovation and the development of new treatments. But ads have so far refrained from calling out individual members.

“Waiting until September is risky”

Biden’s reconciliation bill was once a multi-trillion behemoth that proposed raising taxes on the wealthy to provide free community colleges and child care and fight climate change. It was scaled back over opposition from Manchin and other Senate Democrats. Kirsten Sinema Arizona.

The fate of the measure has seemed uncertain since Mancini appeared on Fox News in December to say he would not vote for it. But the bill began to gain momentum earlier this month when Schumer re-introduced the drug pricing provisions — the part of the bill with the least opposition — and only continued to gain steam, culminating in Wednesday’s deal between Schumer and Manchin.

The plan would raise $739 billion, largely by giving power to negotiate Medicare prices. More expensive drugs, higher corporate taxes and stronger tax enforcement. The funds will be used to extend Affordable Care Act subsidies for three years, cap seniors’ out-of-pocket drug costs under Medicare Part D at $2,000 a year, fight climate change and reduce the deficit.

While drug manufacturers have stepped up lobbying, so have insurers and patient advocates. For example, Blue Cross, Blue Shield and AARP are lobbying lawmakers to pass the bill, each running an ad campaign. Expanding Enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies And for that The language of drug negotiationAccordingly.

Groups including the Alliance for Community Health Plans are pushing to extend the subsidies beyond a few years — ideally making them permanent — but the price is likely too high for Democrats. The original plan extended the enhanced subsidies for two years, while the new deal announced Wednesday extended it to three.

Bill Sweeney, AARP’s senior vice president of government affairs, said the group has spoken to lawmakers about both issues — and activated a grassroots network of members to write to members of Congress.

“This is the culmination of over three years of really intensive work. We’re going to do everything we can to get that to the finish line,” Sweeney said. “I hope people stay focused on how important and transformative and historic this is.”

The seniors group also ran ads in West Virginia to boost Mancini and counter ads by a drug industry ally, the 60 Plus Association. that he says “Cracked under pressure” by agreeing to support the reconciliation bill.

“Everyone knows that Joe Mancini cares about West Virginians, and he knows that too many of us are struggling to pay for our medicine while making huge pharmaceutical profits. The AARP ad states. “That’s why he supports allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.”

There is also pressure for a quick vote. “Who knows what other forces will come into play? Who knows who might be sick with covid and unable to vote?” said David Mitchell, founder of Patient Affordable Medicine, which is pushing for drug pricing reforms.

“We don’t need to work hard in the Senate in the sense that we’re trying to get votes,” he said of the group’s advocacy. “We’re trying to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support them, to support them.”

Democrats’ extremely narrow majorities in the House and Senate, their long struggle to reach a reconciliation deal, and lobbying success from the drug industry mean that any predictions of legislation remain murky. But drugmakers are worried.

“You have to understand the dynamics and the context, but you have to keep going, raise your concerns, talk,” said one industry lobbyist. “Because you just never know.”

Drug users launch ‘Hail Mary’ campaign to sink reconciliation bill

Source link Drug users launch ‘Hail Mary’ campaign to sink reconciliation bill

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