06.12.18

Senator Murray Blasts President Trump’s Drug Pricing Blueprint as Short on Solutions

Murray sharply criticized President Trump for backing away from campaign promise to negotiate lower prices through Medicare

 

Murray: “As a candidate, President Trump talked a big game on lowering drug prices, but after 500 days the only health care price he has dropped is his former Secretary.”

 

Murray: “… your Blueprint has 135 questions—that’s not a plan Mr. Secretary, that’s a questionnaire.”

 

Murray unimpressed by late update of Obama Administration’s Medicare pricing dashboard that lacks previous information: “… you can’t simply turn in someone else’s work, months late, incomplete, and expect to get extra credit for it.”

 

During questioning, Secretary Azar failed to provide any timeline for when the blueprint will bring down list prices

 

Murray also expressed outrage at family separations happening at the U.S. border and concern about impact on children placed under Department’s care

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S SPEECH HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at the Committee’s hearing with Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, about the President’s Blueprint to reduce drug prices.

 

In her remarks, Senator Murray sharply criticized President Trump for breaking his promise to negotiate for lower prices through Medicare—an idea he spoke highly of as a candidate and which Democrats have long argued would have a meaningful impact on drug prices. She noted that instead of negotiating for lower drug prices, President Trump’s plan proposes giving more power to pharmacy benefit managers, despite his claim that he was “very much eliminating the middlemen.” Senator Murray criticized the plan for lacking impactful new plans to bring down drug prices, trying to pass off budget proposals as accomplishments—even when these proposals haven’t been passed into law—and touting a delayed and diminished update of the Obama Administrations Medicare drug pricing dashboard as an “immediate action.” Senator Murray highlighted ideas Democrats have championed for years, and noted just how important this issue is to families in Washington state and across the country. During questioning, Senator Murray pushed Secretary Azar for a timeline on when the blueprint will bring down list prices,  however he failed to provide one.

 

Senator Murray also voiced her serious concern about the Trump Administration’s family separation policy and her commitment to getting more answers from Secretary Azar about the impact this is having on children and the crisis these separations are creating for his Department. As the hearing concluded, Senator Murray also expressed her disappointment that Secretary Azar didn’t stay for a second round of questioning.

 

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“As a candidate, President Trump talked a big game on lowering drug prices, but after 500 days the only health care price he has dropped is his former Secretary. And while the Administration hyped its drug pricing plan as a big step forward to address this broken promise—it’s very clearly not. In fact, when President Trump finally announced his big plan to bring drug companies’ prices down, their stocks actually went up.”

 

“ …instead of giving those families a clear plan to address the issue, President Trump gave us a ‘blueprint’ that has more questions than answers. In fact, your Blueprint has 135 questions—that’s not a plan Mr. Secretary, that’s a questionnaire. And it left me asking some questions too—for example, where are all the big, bold ideas?”

 

“As a candidate, President Trump constantly brought up this idea. He told crowds he would negotiate like crazy. He said it could save hundreds of billions of dollars. He said drug companies were ‘getting away with murder.’ And yet, this plan doesn’t include that idea or any ideas that would really change the situation for patients struggling to afford the drugs they need. As with so many other issues, President Trump talked a big game, and then, instead of backing it up, he backed away.”

 

“Despite his claim that he was QUOTE ‘very much eliminating the middlemen,’ this proposal to shift payments from Medicare Part B to Part D would have the opposite effect—empowering the companies he calls middlemen, without any data to suggest it will bring down prices for patients.”

 

“I was surprised by the misleading decision to list ‘updating Medicare’s drug pricing dashboard’ as an ‘immediate action’ since the dashboard was something the Obama Administration actually started, the update to the dashboard you released last month actually should have been released many months ago, and the Trump Administration’s version actually is missing information that was in the previous one. As a former preschool teacher, I can tell you that even our youngest students know you can’t simply turn in someone else’s work, months late, incomplete, and expect to get extra credit for it.”

“I also raised my eyebrows reading the section on so-called accomplishments in which the Administration brags about the proposals it included in its latest budge… despite the fact that the Budget is only a proposal—not a policy that’s been enacted. Mr. Secretary, that’s like saying you’ve served dinner when you’ve only written a grocery list. And in this case, most of the ingredients on this list are for a big nothing-burger.”

 

“I’ve heard from families across Washington state about how desperately they need us to address this—and I know many families across the country are in the same boat. In fact, two out of every five families can’t afford a $400 dollar emergency. That means they can’t afford drug prices that keep creeping up. The price for Nitrostat, a drug for chest pain, has gone up 29 percent, Advair, for asthma, has gone up 15 percent, and Novolog, an insulin injection, has gone up 10 percent. Families can’t afford to keep waiting for a real plan…”

 

Video of Senator Murray’s remarks available HERE.

 

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you for joining us Secretary Azar.

 

“As a candidate, President Trump talked a big game on lowering drug prices, but after 500 days the only health care price he has dropped is his former Secretary.

 

“And while the Administration hyped its drug pricing plan as a big step forward to address this broken promise—it’s very clearly not. In fact, when President Trump finally announced his big plan to bring drug companies’ prices down, their stocks actually went up.

 

“Meanwhile, too many families in Washington state and across the country are still struggling to make ends meet because of skyrocketing drug prices. Meanwhile, about one in four people report that someone in their family didn’t get a prescription filled because of cost. Meanwhile, about one in four cancer patients avoided filling a prescription for the same reason.

“But instead of giving those families a clear plan to address the issue, President Trump gave us a ‘blueprint’ that has more questions than answers. In fact, your Blueprint has 135 questions—that’s not a plan Mr. Secretary, that’s a questionnaire.

 

“And it left me asking some questions too—for example, where are all the big, bold ideas?

 

“Ideas like negotiating drug prices through Medicare—something Democrats and some Republicans have been pushing to make happen for years and could actually have a meaningful impact. As a candidate, President Trump constantly brought up this idea. He told crowds he would negotiate like crazy. He said it could save hundreds of billions of dollars. He said drug companies were ‘getting away with murder.’

 

“And yet, this plan doesn’t include that idea or any ideas that would really change the situation for patients struggling to afford the drugs they need. As with so many other issues, President Trump talked a big game, and then, instead of backing it up, he backed away.

“But not only did President Trump abandon the idea of having the government negotiate prices through Medicare, he proposed steps that give pharmacy benefit managers more negotiating power instead. Now, that’s not just a one-eighty from what President Trump said during the campaign.

 

“Despite his claim that he was QUOTE ‘very much eliminating the middlemen,’ this proposal to shift payments from Medicare Part B to Part D would have the opposite effect—empowering the companies he calls middlemen, without any data to suggest it will bring down prices for patients.

 

“And while the big takeaway from this proposal is how little the Trump Administration intends to do to address drug prices, in some ways, it also reveals how much the Administration hasn’t done.

 

“For example, I was surprised by the misleading decision to list ‘updating Medicare’s drug pricing dashboard’ as an ‘immediate action’ since the dashboard was something the Obama Administration actually started, the update to the dashboard you released last month actually should have been released many months ago, and the Trump Administration’s version actually is missing information that was in the previous one.

 

“As a former preschool teacher, I can tell you that even our youngest students know you can’t simply turn in someone else’s work, months late, incomplete, and expect to get extra credit for it.

 

“I also raised my eyebrows reading the section on so-called accomplishments in which the Administration brags about the proposals it included in its latest budget, despite the fact that it was an absolutely partisan nonstarter, despite the fact that many of the policies won’t do a thing for patients, and despite the fact that the Budget is only a proposal—not a policy that’s been enacted.

 

“Mr. Secretary, that’s like saying you’ve served dinner when you’ve only written a grocery list. And in this case, most of the ingredients on this list are for a big nothing-burger.

 

“The few exceptions are ideas that Democrats have been fighting for and Congressional Republicans have been fighting against.

 

“For example, the idea of requiring drug ads to include prices. Senator Durbin introduced a bill with Senator Hassan and others to do this last year—a bill no Republican has signed on to as a cosponsor.

 

“Or the idea of requiring pharmacy benefit managers to pass rebates along to patients. Senator Wyden introduced a bill to do this last year—also without a Republican cosponsor.

 

“Or the idea of preventing generic drug manufacturers from gaming the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory incentives to keep other affordable products off the market. Fifteen Democrats introduced a bill last year to push for these changes—without any Republican cosponsors.

 

“So I’m particularly curious what my Republican colleagues think about our ideas now—and whether they are ready to join us at the table.

 

“There are policies in the Blueprint with which Democrats agree. But make no mistake—these are targeted changes that come nowhere close to solving this large problem. We need an ambitious plan to drive drug prices down, not one so small that it sends pharmaceutical stocks soaring in relief.

 

“I’ve heard from families across Washington state about how desperately they need us to address this—and I know many families across the country are in the same boat.

 

“In fact, two out of every five families can’t afford a $400 dollar emergency. That means they can’t afford drug prices that keep creeping up. The price for Nitrostat, a drug for chest pain, has gone up 29 percent, Advair, for asthma, has gone up 15 percent, and Novolog, an insulin injection, has gone up 10 percent.

 

“Families can’t afford to keep waiting for a real plan—which is why Democrats are going to keep fighting for common sense solutions that would actually make a difference, like negotiating lower prices through Medicare.

 

“And, I also want to take a moment to note that accountability for drug companies isn’t just about drug prices.

 

“Senator Sanders, and several other members of the Committee, have requested we hold a hearing with pharmaceutical executives about their role in the opioid crisis. I think that’s an excellent idea and I hope the Chairman will work with us on this.

 

“Finally, I want to express my alarm and outrage at the Trump Administration’s efforts to separate families at the border. This isn’t just unacceptable, it’s morally reprehensible. This shouldn’t be happening.

 

“Mr. Secretary, I am deeply concerned about the children impacted by these separations and the crisis this is creating in your Department, so I want to be clear that I have questions for you about that.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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