House Dems Split Over a Prescription Drug Plan

The Story:

Nancy Pelosi  (D – Cal.) , the Speaker of the House, would like to put together a unified plan for the lowering of prescription drug prices, which are widely seen at present as out of control in the US. Unfortunately, unity in the Democratic Party’s caucus may be difficult to achieve. The reasons for this have everything to do with the politics of the 2020 Presidential campaign.

Two Factions:

Speaker Pelosi’s point-man on the subject of health care, her staff expert, is Wendell Primus. Primus is involved with the White House in negotiations for a bipartisan plan.

But many Democrats suspect that any plan that arises from such negotiations will go far too easy on the drug companies. Some of them support the Doggett plan, named for Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D – Texas), the sponsor on the House side of the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act.

The Doggett plan stipulates that if pharmaceutical companies refuse to agree to a reasonable price on a given medication, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will be empowered to create an exclusive license for a company that is willing to offer the drug at a price deemed fair to Medicare patients and taxpayers. The idea is to force the drug companies either to cartelize on terms favorable for the government, or to compete with one another for monopoly rights … at the expense, again, of the winner charging only what is acceptable to the government.

The Thing to Know:

The emerging Pelosi/Doggett split mirrors the Clinton/Sanders split from the last Presidential primary season, and the nascent split among the party’s candidates for the next season. Triangulating pragmatic centrists are in each context resisting what they see as the overreaching of central planners to their left.

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