Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are continuing work on their drug pricing bill, H.R. 3, with hopes of holding a vote later this month.
Unveiled in September, H.R. 3 includes a number of provisions that would improve prescription drug access and affordability for people with Medicare. Among the bill’s critical reforms are those allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices; the imposition of inflationary rebates on certain drugs in Parts B and D; and a restructuring of the Part D benefit that would cap out-of-pocket costs, reduce the federal government’s liability, and better align pricing incentives.
The bill also includes a mechanism to invest some of its savings back into the Medicare program. The reinvestments could expand and strengthen Medicare, such as by adding coverage for dental, vision, and hearing, or by easing access to programs that help low-income beneficiaries afford their health coverage and prescription drugs. The details of this provision are not yet final, and the bill’s total estimated savings have not yet been released.
A preliminary analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), however, suggests lawmakers may have a significant amount of money to work with. The agency estimates H.R. 3’s negotiation provisions alone would save $345 billion over seven years.
Importantly, this review also finds the examined policy changes would improve beneficiary access to needed medications. According to CBO, because the bill would lower drug prices—and therefore out-of-pocket costs—more beneficiaries would fill their prescriptions, leading to improved health and reduced spending on other Medicare-covered services, like hospital care.
The agency is analyzing the bill’s other titles now, and additional savings are expected.
In the interim, lawmakers are working to identify ways to allocate these funds. The possible Medicare improvements were discussed during Committee hearings today, and Medicare Rights recently expressed support for the reinvestment strategy. In particular, we recommended prioritizing policies that would fill longstanding gaps in coverage, ease access to low-income programs, make Medigaps more available and affordable, and better empower beneficiaries to make informed coverage choices.
We also continue to urge Congress to improve the Medicare Part D appeals process as part of any comprehensive drug pricing bill, and we need your help to make sure these important changes aren’t left behind! Take action today and ask your representative to support the inclusion of the Streamlining Medicare Part D Appeals Process Act (H.R. 3924) in H.R. 3.
Looking ahead, the three committees with jurisdiction over H.R. 3— Energy & Commerce, Ways & Means, and Education & Labor—are expected to conclude their work next week, setting up a possible floor vote the week of October 28. Medicare Rights will continue to work to ensure that any final legislation is best positioned to meaningfully address the problem of high and rising drug prices within the Medicare program.