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Eyeing 2020, House empowers Medicare to negotiate drug costs

The legislation has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, and the White House has issued a veto threat.
Credit: AP
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

House Democrats have pushed through legislation that would empower Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and offer new benefits for seniors. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bill would also provide new dental, vision and hearing benefits for Medicare recipients. The House voted along party lines, with the vote ending at 230-192.

The legislation has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, and the White House has issued a veto threat. Still, Democrats see a a political victory in the message their bill sends to voters. 

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“I think that it is going to be too hot to handle for the Republicans,” said Pelosi at a press conference.

Republicans say they don't believe government should set prices for medicines. When Donald Trump was a candidate, he promised that Medicare would “negotiate like crazy.” He's since backed off.  

Pelosi’s bill “is a serious proposal but everyone knows that the Senate isn’t going to go for it,” John Rother, CEO of the National Coalition on Health told The Associated Press.

“It is about legislating, but even more it’s about establishing a platform that Democrats can run on going into the next election cycle and lays the groundwork for legislative activity in 2021,” Rother said. His organization is an umbrella group that represents health care industry groups and consumers.