WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks during today’s executive session on generic drugs and pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform.
The bills being considered in today’s executive session include the Ensuring Timely Access to Generics Act of 2023, the Expanding Access to Low-Cost Generics Act of 2023, the Retaining Access and Restoring Exclusivity Act (RARE) Act, and the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reform Act.
Click here to watch the executive session live.
Thank you, Chair Sanders.
Today we have our first legislative markup of this Congress to consider critically important legislation.
While the process it took to get to here was not always easy, we worked together on two issues identified as key bipartisan priorities – pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
Proud of the legislation we put together. We improved upon bills that previously passed this committee to ensure that employers are better equipped to shop-around for the highest-quality, lowest-cost health care benefits for their employees. We also bring much needed transparency to the opaque structure middlemen use to pad their bottom line at the expense of the customers and patients who use their services.
We also push forward reforms to bring new, lower-cost generic drugs to market faster.
The solutions we have before us today are perfect examples of how we can lower drug prices without overhauling the entire health care system or threatening the ability to produce new life-saving drugs in the future.
All of this being said, I am concerned that today the Chair seems inclined to abandon the carefully balanced, bipartisan legislation we negotiated for the last several weeks.
Did I get every policy that I wanted? No. Did I have to give on some things? Yes. Are there parts of these bills that I would want to be different? Sure. But that is the process of bipartisan negotiation.
In announcing a bipartisan deal last week with the Chair, I did so with the expectation that we would protect the hard work and compromise that we put in over the last several weeks. To me, this meant honoring our commitments in areas where we agreed to disagree. I am informed that the Chair intends to support the inclusion of several policies as amendments during today’s markup that he and his staff had agreed to take off the table as part of the negotiated bipartisan deal that is essential to getting 60 votes on the Senate floor.
The overall package was negotiated in good faith on our side and concessions made with the understanding and commitment from the Chair and his staff that the inclusion of these policies was ruled out.
Any Senator on this committee is entitled to file amendments and ask for his or her amendment to be considered. I do not begrudge any Senator for asking for votes on an amendment.
However, as the leaders crafting and announcing this deal, there is an expectation that the Chair and I uphold the commitments we made to each other in the negotiating room. To me, this does not mean taking things off the table when we cannot reach agreement, only to circumvent our negotiation and push to include the very thing later as an amendment.
Today, we have potentially four amendments where this is the case. And if the Chair fails to support the deal he made, it will severely affect the trust in the majority’s intention to negotiate in good faith on bipartisan legislation in the future.
Hopefully, for these particular amendments, the Chair will join me in moving to table or opposing to protect the deal we carefully crafted to not only report the legislation favorably out of this committee, but to pass the full Senate in strong, bipartisan fashion.