In recent weeks, several committees within the U.S. House of Representatives—Energy & Commerce, Education & Labor, and Ways & Means—have been working to finalize the House’s drug pricing bill, HR 3. While the bill advanced by each committee differs slightly, the underlying goals are unchanged from the version initially introduced.
The biggest update to the original bill text is in Title IV. Added to the bill by Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce—the House committees with Medicare jurisdiction—Title IV is intended to serve as a mechanism to invest some of the bill’s savings back into the Medicare program. The details of this provision are not yet final, as the bill’s total estimated savings have not yet been released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
However, Medicare Rights is fully supportive of the Title IV reinvestments as outlined. They are based on several stand-alone bills that would make significant improvements to the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) program (also called “Extra Help”). In particular, the various sections of Title IV would: eliminate the asset test (HR 4628) and expand the income eligibility thresholds for LIS benefits (HR 4620); eliminate cost-sharing on generics for LIS beneficiaries (HR 2757); allow U.S. territory residents to enroll in LIS (HR 4666); expand LIS auto-enrollment (HR 4661); improve notification to LIS enrollees regarding premium comparisons (HR 4632); provide for intelligent assignment (HR 4669); and exclude certain retirement accounts from the program’s income calculations (HR 4655).
In addition to HR 3, both committees also approved separate bills to add dental (HR 4650), vision (HR 4665), and hearing (HR 4618) coverage to Medicare Part B, and Energy & Commerce advanced legislation (HR 4671) to modernize Medicare Savings Program (MSP) eligibility and enrollment.
Next steps for these bills include a floor vote. But first, the committee-approved packages must be reconciled and changes are expected during this process. In addition, lawmakers are still waiting on a full CBO score, which they need before finalizing the reinvestments. Though a vote could happen as soon as next week, this ongoing work means it will likely be delayed until November.
In the interim, Medicare Rights will continue to advocate for final legislation that meaningfully addresses the problem of high and rising drug prices within the Medicare program.