President Trump Will Propose Changes to Lower Medicare Drug Prices

3 stacks of coins with increasing height that have pills on top of each stack

As part of a plan to lower prescription drug prices for millions of Americans, President Donald Trump is set to announce a sweeping plan to overhaul how Medicare pays for medication.

The announcement, which will be made two weeks before the midterm elections, will outline his proposal at the Department of Health and Human Services Thursday afternoon. The proposals are not set in stone, though. According to Politico, White House sources said the plan still needs to be “refined and put through a federal rulemaking process.”

The plan, as Politico reported, includes several ideas that Trump has been touting for months. The changes include negotiation of prices for some medications that are administered by doctors, in order to keep the prices in line with the lower drug prices in other countries, according to Politico. The medications covered under this idea would be intravenous treatments or other injectables that doctors or hospitals administer, not medications that are self-administered. Politico noted that this particular part of the president’s plan will not cover medications that individuals acquire at their local pharmacy.

By negotiating the price of drugs, the White House believes that could save Medicare more than $17 billion over five years, the White House believes, according to the report. The administration believes such negotiations will cause the price of some prescription drugs to drop by as much as 30 percent. Trump made drug pricing a central point of his 2016 presidential campaign and even discussed the idea of Medicare negotiating drug prices. He most famously claimed that pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder” when it comes to the prices the companies charge for medication.

Earlier this year the Trump administration released a blueprint to bring drug prices down. He scored a victory earlier this summer after publicly shaming Pfizer to back down on a second round of price hikes for about 10 of its prescription medicines.  Despite his calls for lower prices, a report released earlier this month showed that the price for many drugs has continued to climb.

During the HHS address, Politico said that Trump will also likely use the platform to question the pay structures that foreign healthcare platforms use in comparison to the United States. Trump has long decried what he calls “freeloading” that he claims has driven up the price of prescription drugs in the United States.  

According to the report, the White House has set a “benchmark” against the pricing of drugs in 16 other nations as part of an international pricing index, Politico said. The nations in question are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Those nations have drug prices that are about 44 percent lower than in the United States. According to the report, the goal is to slowly lower prices at home to match those international levels over a five-year period.

Another part of the plan would be to allow private sector vendors to negotiate with drug makers, Politico reported. This idea is modeled on how health insurance companies currently negotiate drug prices for Medicare Part D.

Lastly, the president’s plan includes changing incentives for doctors to prescribe drugs. Politico noted that under current Medicare rules, doctors can charge a higher fee for prescribing certain high-cost drugs. By changing that incentive bonus to a flat fee, doctors would be more free to prescribe less expensive medications.

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