Welch pitches prescription bill to Trump

MONTPELIER — Rep. Peter Welch met with President Donald Trump Wednesday to pitch legislation aimed at lower prescription drug prices.

The Oval Office meeting inside the White House was attended by Welch, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Dr. Redonda G. Miller, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. right, listens as  Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, following their meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. right, listens as Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, following their meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The trio met with Trump to pitch a bill that would allow the secretary of the Agency of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. Current law prohibits the federal government from doing so under a provision known as the “non-interference clause.”

Welch, a Democrat, said the legislation would eliminate the non-interference clause and direct the secretary to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers and create a formulary to further leverage the purchasing power of the federal government.

“President Trump promised lower drug prices for Americans getting crushed by unjustifiable and exorbitant increases in the price of prescription drugs,” Welch said following the White House meeting. “The bill Congressman Cummings and I presented to him in our meeting will empower the federal government to negotiate with drug companies for lower Medicare drug prices. It simply makes no sense for Medicare to buy wholesale and pay retail prices. As a businessman, President Trump understands that. I hope he helps us enact our legislation to provide urgently needed relief to consumers and taxpayers.”

Welch noted that the president has publicly supported efforts to lower drug prices. In December, as president-elect, Trump promised “to bring down drug prices.” Trump also declared that the pharmaceutical industry is “getting away with murder.”

In a statement, Cummings said Trump “committed to reviewing our proposal,” adding that the president “seemed enthusiastic about the idea.”

Cummings and Welch, a senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and the Committee on Energy and Commerce, said Medicare pays higher prices for drugs than other government programs because it does not negotiate. Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs pay 73 percent and 80 percent less, respectively. The two lawmaker said the federal government could save as much as $16 billion per year if Medicare paid similar rates.

neal.goswami@timeargus.com

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