Mitch McConnell is blocking legislation to lower prescription drugs — again

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doesn’t like it when Democrats in Congress try to lower prescription drug prices:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t support a bipartisan domestic manufacturing bill if Democrats try to lower prescription drug prices and tax the rich, the Kentucky Republican announced Thursday.

Bipartisan negotiators from the House and Senate have been hammering out a compromise of a bill boosting the semiconductor chip industry after each chamber passed its own version. The Senate’s bill was called the United States Innovation and Competitiveness Act, or USICA.

“Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill,” McConnell tweeted on Thursday.

He didn’t like it back in 2020 when Congress tried to lower prescription drug prices, and he was paid handsomely by big pharma for his opposition:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced in September that he would block any consideration of a bill to lower prescription drug costs. By the end of December, he had raked in more than $50,000 in contributions from political action committees and individuals tied to the pharmaceutical industry.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Sept. 19 that the Democratic majority would offer H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The bill would allow the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare, restrict price hikes, and limit out-of-pocket costs. It aims to follow through on one of Donald Trump’s unkept campaign promises: Medicare drug price negotiation.

That same day Pelosi outlined the plan, McConnell (R-KY) declared it would have no chance of passage in the GOP-controlled Senate. “Socialist price controls will do a lot of left-wing damage to the healthcare system. And of course we’re not going to be calling up a bill like that,” he told reporters.

This all happens despite that the fact that, as Kaiser Health News reports this month, Americans are saddled with record amounts of medical debt:

Patient debt is piling up despite the landmark 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The law expanded insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans. Yet it also ushered in years of robust profits for the medical industry, which has steadily raised prices over the past decade.

Hospitals recorded their most profitable year on record in 2019, notching an aggregate profit margin of 7.6%, according to the federal Medicare Payment Advisory Committee. Many hospitals thrived even through the pandemic.

But for many Americans, the law failed to live up to its promise of more affordable care. Instead, they’ve faced thousands of dollars in bills as health insurers shifted costs onto patients through higher deductibles.

Now, a highly lucrative industry is capitalizing on patients’ inability to pay. Hospitals and other medical providers are pushing millions into credit cards and other loans. These stick patients with high interest rates while generating profits for the lenders that top 29%, according to research firm IBISWorld.

Patient debt is also sustaining a shadowy collections business fed by hospitals ― including public university systems and nonprofits granted tax breaks to serve their communities ― that sell debt in private deals to collections companies that, in turn, pursue patients.

“People are getting harassed at all hours of the day. Many come to us with no idea where the debt came from,” said Eric Zell, a supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. “It seems to be an epidemic.”

Were it not for Republican opposition, and two Democratic U.S. senators blocking progress in the Senate — Manchin and Sinema – Democrats would have had this legislation passed long before now. Remember that next time you vote.

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