Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Pelosi pushes drug price reform, pushes aside impeachment
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who launched the Trump impeachment probe in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday brought the very different cause of prescription drug reform to Harborview Medical Center in this Washington.
Borrowing from Abraham Lincoln, she delivered a revealing insight to both matters: "Public sentiment: With it, you can accomplish practically anything. Without it you can accomplish nothing."
Does the House Speaker have a timetable for the impeachment investigation? "No," Pelosi said.
As the House Speaker took the stage at Harborview, the "other" Washington was abuzz with a new Washington Post national poll, which finds 58% of Americans support the impeachment inquiry, with 49% saying they would support impeachment "and removal" of President Donald Trump: 48% were opposed.
But Pelosi was hearing a question from Dana Van Buecken, whose monthly bill to treat type 1 diabetes has climbed from $75 a month to $600, in her words, "for a medicine that is not optional for me."
"If any drug needs to be addressed, it is insulin," Pelosi responded. Describing escalating cost, she added: "It's really sinful."
Pelosi has introduced the Lower Drug Cost Now Act, and argued that this is one issue where cooperation with the Trump Administration might just be possible. "In my view, it could happen this year," she said.
The House Speaker delivered a basic argument in response to all those glossy pharmaceutical industry ads touting research by photogenic scientists. "We as taxpayers are paying for much of the basic biomedical research," she said.
Pelosi is the rare nabob in Congress who holds "retail" events, rather than jetting in for big dollar fundraisers and then jetting out again. She has held Seattle forums on women's health issues, LGBTQ rights and the Equality Act, and Tuesday on how to bring sky-high drug costs back to earth.
Genesis Avalos quietly told the House Speaker of the hemophilia of her son Sammy. The cost of his medication has totaled $2.5 million "with no end in sight for there is no cure for this disease," Avalos explained. "We could be bankrupt without the Affordable Care Act."
The Pelosi legislation would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to annually negotiate prices for the top 250 most expensive drugs on the market, which do not have at least two competitors.
The negotiated price would be accessible to all buyers, not just persons on Medicare. The price amounts, Pelosi explained, would be pegged to costs of drugs in major industrialized nations, which pay far less than do American consumers. An "international price index" would be established.
A $2,000 out-of-pocket cap would be established on costs of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries and the disabled. Too many Americans face "endlessly expensive" drug costs, Pelosi argued.
Pelosi appeared with U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation.
"This was THE issue in the last election," Pelosi said. The Democrats gained 40 House seats in 2018 -- including election of U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier in Washington's 8th District -- to give Pelosi a second stint in the Speaker's chair.
She is the first woman to hold Congress' most important job.