Less than two weeks before the midterm elections, in which health care has been a major issue, President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a plan to lower prices for some prescription drugs, the AP reports, saying it would stop unfair practices that force Americans to pay higher prices than people in other countries do for the same medications. "We are taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country," Trump said in a speech at the Department of Health and Human Services. But consumers take note: The plan would not apply to medicines people buy at the pharmacy, just ones administered in a doctor's office, as are many cancer medications. Officials said the complex proposal could take more than a year to put into effect.
Under the plan, Medicare payments for drugs administered in doctors' offices would gradually shift to a level based on international prices. Prices in other countries are lower because governments directly negotiate with manufacturers. Drugmakers immediately pushed back, arguing the plan amounts to government price-setting. "The administration is imposing foreign price controls from countries with socialized health care systems that deny their citizens access and discourage innovation," lobbyist Stephen Ubl said in a statement, calling the plan a "detriment." HHS says overall savings to Medicare would total $17.2 billion over five years. Beneficiaries would save an estimated $3.4 billion through lower cost-sharing for physician-administered drugs. The proposal is structured as an experiment and would apply to half the country. Officials said they're seeking input on how to select the areas of the country that will take part in the new pricing system. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said politics would have nothing to do with it. (This $69 billion deal may reshape health care as we know it.)