House passes drug price bill

The House of Representatives passed a bill Friday requiring government negotiation of drug prices for Medicare recipients by a vote of 255-170. The bill, promised as part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “100 hours” agenda, replaced a much more ambitious plan scuttled because the Democrats wanted to avoid a rumble with pharmaceutical lobbyists, The Washington Post reported Friday. But the bill nonetheless would strike the “noninterference provision” that was part of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which prohibits price controls, and mandates direct negotiations between Health and Human Services and drug companies over pricing. Should the bill pass through the Senate–-a prospect that seems unlikely, given Republican threats of a filibuster–-President Bush has promised to veto it. The bill’s chances in the Senate got a slight lift with the sign-on of Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, the centrist Montana Democrat, who said he believed the government should be able to negotiate prices for Medicare recipients in “discrete areas where our seniors need our help the most.”

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