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The Big Picture
This week, the House Committees on Energy and Commerce (E&C) and Ways and Means (W&M) marked up their portion of the reconciliation package for fiscal year 2022. Beyond expanded federal funding and tax credits for clean energy and broadband, both E&C and W&M's pieces of the so-called “Build Back Better Act” also includes several damaging healthcare provisions.
Most significantly, W&M decided to tuck H.R. 3 into the budget. This bill -- a priority for House Democrats -- would, among other things, require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement price controls on the most common pharmaceuticals. House Democrats are also seeking to expand Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid. In spite of federal caps, the result of these provisions is likely to be higher costs for consumers and less innovation in healthcare markets that have driven the improvements in health outcomes for all Americans.
Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid
Why It Matters
Exorbitant costs for pharmaceuticals is an ever-present problem for millions of Americans. Something must be done to help low and middle-income individuals and families afford the medicines they need. However, addressing this issue is a balancing act. Strict federal mandates and price controls are likely to exacerbate this issue rather than solve it, leaving many Americans to shoulder the burden of even higher prices.
One thing that remains unclear about the House Democrats’ proposals on drug pricing is whether or not these policy changes can be implemented through reconciliation. An important rule known as the Byrd Rule prohibits the Senate from considering anything that is extraneous to the budget in the budget reconciliation process. It is very likely that the Senate parliamentarian will determine that these changes are not budgetary, and therefore out of order in reconciliation.
Price controls hurt the very Americans they are intended to help, and the passage of this package could have a disastrous impact on the development of new and innovative cures. Despite the presumably good intentions of progressives, big-government policies have no place in medicine.