Health and Science

Pelosi agrees to expand drug price bill to win support from AOC, other Democrats

Key Points
  • The bill originally allows U.S. health officials to negotiate the prices Medicare pays for at least 35 different prescription drugs.
  • As part of the deal, Democratic leaders agree to raise that to a minimum of 50 drugs.
  • Pelosi also agrees to restore a provision of the bill that protects employer-sponsored health plans from drug price spikes.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at a press conference, September 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has brokered a deal with a key block of Democrats that threatened to derail passage of her sweeping bill overhauling drug prices.

Pelosi met late Tuesday with Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The caucus said the legislation didn't go far enough and was threatening to oppose it on the House floor when it is voted on later this week.

The bill originally allowed U.S. health officials to negotiate the prices Medicare pays for at least 35 different prescription drugs. As part of the deal, Democratic leaders agreed to raise that to a minimum of 50 drugs. Pelosi also agreed to restore a provision of the bill that protects employer-sponsored health plans from drug price spikes.

"This is a huge victory for the American people!" Jayapal said in a tweet Tuesday night. "When we stick together, fight hard and with principle, we help improve lives for millions of people."

The legislation is widely expected to pass in the House as early as Thursday.

The bill faced a partial setback earlier in the week after progressive Democrats threatened to vote against it in hopes of pressuring leaders to add more dramatic changes. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a high-profile member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters Tuesday that she planned to vote against the drug pricing plan.

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It's unclear if Ocasio-Cortez now supports the bill. Calls to her office for comment Wednesday weren't immediately returned.

Republicans remain against the legislation, saying it is highly partisan and has no chance of becoming law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely to ignore the legislation and President Donald Trump has vowed to veto it.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would save Medicare $456 billion over a decade, but also keep eight new drugs from coming to the market.