HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Democrats Face Messaging War on Drug Bill

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Democrats want to go into their August recess telling their constituents they’re lowering what they pay for medicines—but many of their promised changes won’t be felt for years, and only by a fraction of the nation.

Drug-pricing legislation is expected to get a vote in the Senate as soon as this week as part of a larger domestic policy package. The pharmaceutical industry, conservative groups, and Republican lawmakers are already bashing the measure in television ads and in town halls, painting it as ineffective and harmful to drug innovation.

This war on messaging could be challenging for Democrats because some of the major benefits of their drug-pricing bill won’t go into effect until 2025, too late for voters in elections this November. Opponents of the drug bill say they’ll attempt to capitalize on that.

Democrats also face concerns within their own party that the drug bill doesn’t go far enough because it would limit drug negotiations to only a select number of medicines that have been on the market for years. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, said limiting negotiations is a mistake, and Americans want a more forceful effort on drug costs. Alex Ruoff and Zach C. Cohen have more.

  • Insulin Cost Provision: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed to add provisions to the bill on insulin costs, but didn’t specify which ones. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) wants to bring back a cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35, but that could face a challenge by Republicans on whether it’s allowed in a reconciliation package.
  • Paid Leave Out: Senate Democrats’ deal excludes a paid family and medical leave program, likely pushing any chance of enacting nationwide paid leave to a future Congress where it could require a bipartisan compromise. Read more from Paige Smith, Chris Marr and Jalen Brown.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars


  • Organ Procurement Network: The Senate Finance Committee holds a Wednesday hearing on the “organizational failures” of the country’s organ procurement and transplantation network.
  • Genetic Medical Research: The Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats holds a Wednesday hearing on applying lessons from the Covid pandemic to gain-of-function research, a field of research that entails genetic modifications of viruses and pathogens.
  • BGOV Calendar: Find a list of all Senate and House hearings here.

After GOP Revolt, Veterans’ Health Bill Gets Another Shot: Senate Democratic leaders will make another attempt this week to pass legislation (S. 3373) ensuring health-care coverage for veterans exposed to toxins after Republicans blocked the popular bill due to budgetary concerns. Read more from Victoria Cavaliere.

Lawmakers Want Monkeypox Emergency Declaration: House Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) sent a letter Friday to HHS Xavier Becerra calling on him to declare a public health emergency in response to the ongoing spread of monkeypox. Read the letter here.

  • N.Y. Declares Emergency: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a disaster emergency due to the spread of monkeypox in the state through Aug. 28. The state is experiencing one of the highest rates of monkeypox transmission in the country with 1,383 reported cases as of Friday, Hochul said. Read more from Max Zimmerman.
  • Kids’ Monkeypox Infections: The widening monkeypox outbreak is sparking concern that the virus may spread among a cohort especially prone to transmitting contagious infections: kids. Experts at the World Health Organization said they are watching the potential for spread among children “extremely closely.” Read more from Madison Alder.

Republicans Want Probe of Science Foundation: Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) launched an oversight investigation into “potential waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars by the National Science Foundation,” according to a Friday statement. Read the letter here.

Biden Taps Abortion Attorney From Dobbs Case: Center for Reproductive Rights lawyer Julie Rikelman, who represented the Mississippi abortion clinic in the Supreme Court case that overturned constitutional protections for abortion access is Biden’s nominee for a seat on the Boston-based federal appeals court. Read more from Madison Alder.

  • Louisiana Ban Returns: Louisiana laws banning most abortions in the state are back in effect for now, as a state appeals court on Friday granted a request from Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) to review a lower court’s injunction blocking their enforcement. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.
  • Indiana GOP Divided: Republican lawmakers in Indiana—where a 10-year-old victim recently traveled to end a pregnancy—are struggling to advance an abortion ban because they can’t agree on exceptions for rape. Alex Ebert has more.
  • Teen’s Abortion Fundraiser: A fundraiser for abortion groups popularized by Texas teenager Olivia Julianna singled out by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has risen to $1.5 million and counting. Read more from Ella Ceron.

What Else to Know Today

US Plans Booster Push in September: The US plans to begin offering reformulated Covid booster shots in September after jockeying by Pfizer and Moderna moved up the time-lines for the vaccines, people familiar with the matter said. The US has ordered a combined 171 million doses of next-generation vaccines the companies have developed in an attempt to provide more targeted protection. Josh Wingrove has more.

  • Pandemic Revamp Concerns: An effort to give new powers to a health emergency preparedness office is unlikely to clarify what part of the federal government takes charge in future pandemics, former health officials said. Last week, HHS confirmed it would elevate the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Shira Stein and Riley Griffin have more.

Medicare Drug Premiums Projected to Fall: Monthly Medicare premiums for “Part D” prescription drug coverage are projected to be $31.50 in 2023, down 1.8% from $32.08 this year, the Biden administration announced on Friday. Read more from Tony Pugh.


  • Biden Positive Again: Biden tested positive for Covid-19 for a second consecutive day as he continues to deal with a rebound case of the disease, according to the White House. Read more from Jordan Fabian.
  • Special Needs Families: Families whose children have disabilities or specific nutritional needs have been hit particularly hard by the ongoing formula shortage. In response, parents and doctors are creating ad hoc networks. Read more from Ayanna Alexander.
  • Nursing Home Boost: Nursing home’s Medicare payments will be boosted by $904 million in fiscal 2023 under a White House rule released Friday. Read more from Allie Reed.
  • LGBT+ Health Bias: A lawsuit over a Trump-era rule interpreting Obamacare’s anti-discrimination section as not prohibiting bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity in health services should be tossed, HHS told a federal court in Massachusetts. Mary Anne Pazanowski has more.

With assistance from Alex Ruoff and Zach C. Cohen

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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