Did Republicans Just Kill Their Chances in 2020?

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Are the House Democrats doing more than just keeping the president accountable with impeachment? You bet they are. And by doing so, they are making the 2020 election much tougher for the House Republicans.

After the heels of passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act two weeks ago, last week they passed a huge piece of legislation–HR 3, known as the Lower Drug Prices Now Act. Speaker Pelosi also added Elijah E. Cummings to the official name of the bill in honor of the well respected Congressman who died unexpectedly in October and who had worked tirelessly to make medicine cheaper.

What HR 3 does

Broadly speaking, HR 3 gives the government the power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies in a way they’ve never been able to before. There’s no reason Americans should have to spend two or three times as much (sometimes as much as 10 times as much) that people in other countries have to pay for the same drug. Here are some more specifics:

  • Gives Medicare the power to negotiate directly with the drug companies, and creates strong new tools to force drug companies to the table to agree to real price reductions, while ensuring seniors never lose access to the prescriptions they need.
  • Makes the lower drug prices negotiated by Medicare available to Americans with private insurance, not just Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Stops drug companies ripping off Americans while charging other countries less for the same drugs, limiting the maximum price for any negotiated drug to the average price in countries like ours, where drug companies charge less for the same drugs – and admit they still make a profit.
  • Creates a new, $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries, and reverses years of unfair price hikes above inflation across thousands of drugs in Medicare.
  • Reinvests in innovation and the search for new cures and treatments, using some of the savings from lowering the unjustified drug prices that are bankrolling Big Pharma’s stock-buybacks to reinvest billions of dollars in the search for new breakthrough treatments and cures at the National Institutes of Health.

As one example of how HR 3 would affect drug prices, let’s look at insulin. A vial of insulin (that generally lasts for about 10 days) costs about $300 in the U.S. whereas in only costs $30 in Canada. If HR 3 goes into effect, no American would have to pay more than 125% of what a drug costs overseas. So that vial of insulin that is currently costing our citizens $300? They’d only have to pay $38–saving them $3,144 in a single year.

Yet, the vote for HR 3 was highly partisan. The final vote was 230-192, with only two Republicans crossing over to vote in favor of this bill. You can see how everyone voted HERE.

How does this hurt Republicans?

In the best of all worlds, the Senate would take up HR 3 to debate it and then vote on it. And by all means, encourage your two Senators (contact info HERE) to pressure Mitch McConnell to take up the legislation. He’s the only one who can schedule a vote. You should absolutely let your Senators how important it is to you, or a family member, that we get more reasonable drug prices right away.

But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder if the Republicans just made a colossal mistake here. We know that as voters headed into the midterms, the #1 issue on their minds was healthcare. It’s an issue that affects all of us. And drug prices are a key component of healthcare. Seniors, especially, are very keen to have their drug prices come down. And they vote at higher rates than any other demographic.

But the message going into midterms will be that nearly every House Republican voted AGAINST a plan to lower their drug costs. And the Senate, controlled by the Republicans, wouldn’t even vote on it. I can’t help but think this is going to be a major factor in 2020, just like all their votes to take away healthcare was in 2018.

As for what we can do, that’s simple. We need to keep this vote in front of the voters all the time for the next year. “Want lower drug prices? Democrats do, too, and we have the votes to prove it. Your Republican representative? They voted to keep your drug prices high.” I think the ads, the tweets, the posts write themselves.

As the Democrats said upon passing HR 3, “You shouldn’t have to be wealthy to be healthy.”

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