Among the chief discrepancies between the House and Senate health reform proposals is a provision of the House bill that would allow states to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices on behalf of their lowest income seniors — those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. House leaders, behind Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), have proposed to use the resulting savings to close the coverage gap in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. Trouble is, Democrats in the Senate and the White House promised earlier in the year not to support such price haggling as part of an $80 billion deal cut with the drug lobby to secure its support for the underlying bill.
“The President and the Senate made very poor deals with PhRMA,” Waxman said, explaining the deal whereby the drug industry offered $80 billion dollars in givebacks in exchange for their support for the overall bill. “Rahm (Emanuel) said that’s OK,” Waxman said, but he noted that under the deal, the industry would get millions of new customers and Americans would still pay far more than the rest of the industrialized world for prescription drugs.
“I have said that I am not bound by that agreement,” Waxman said, noting all the provisions in the House bill which go further than the PhRMA deal. … Waxman said that in the conference, where he expected the President to sit down personally, “I’m going to say, ‘Are we interested in protecting the profits of the drug companies or protecting seniors?’”
Although the House does not reconvene until Jan. 12, and the Senate is out until the Jan. 19, leaders from both chambers have returned to Washington this week to begin ironing out the differences between the chambers’ health reform bills, of which Waxman’s drug provision is just one.