Senate lawmaker scraps some price controls on prescription drugs as Senate eyes weekend debate

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The Senate congressman ruled on Saturday that Democrats must remove a provision targeting prescription drug reimbursements from the $740 billion health care, climate, tax and spending package ahead of an expected showdown as the House is considering the bill this weekend.

Elizabeth MacDonough, who has worked overtime to conduct a sweeping, nonpartisan review of the legislation to ensure it meets complex Senate budget reconciliation rules, said Democrats must remove provisions that require drugmakers to pay rebates for the products they sell to private insurers if their prices rise above inflation.

Drugmakers should still pay penalties for drugs purchased by Medicare.

Other provisions targeting drug prices, including measures to allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs and cap out-of-pocket payments for seniors, survived the scrub.

“This is a major victory for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a statement. “While there was an unfortunate decision that inflation reimbursement has a more limited scope, the overall program remains intact, and we are on the verge of finally taking on Big Pharma and reducing the prices of Rx drugs for millions of Americans.”

The curb on Democrats’ proposal to penalize drug companies that raise private insurers’ costs beyond inflation slashes the $288 billion in long-term savings that Democrats had touted under the bill .

The Senate is expected to begin considering the bill later Saturday as Democrats race to pass a central item on the Biden administration’s agenda before leaving for the Senate’s August recess.

Republicans plan to wage an uphill battle against the bill through what’s called a “vote-a-rama” — an hour-long process that forces the entire chamber to consider changes to budget legislation . Part of the strategy is to put Democrats on the defensive on a series of hot topics.

At the end of the votes on the amendments, which could begin this weekend, the majority party adopts a final amendment canceling any precedent adopted.

Senate Republicans have pledged to make the process as difficult as possible in an unlikely and last-ditch attempt to pressure enough of their fellow Democrats to drop the bill.

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