Oct. 25 (UPI) — Congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced two new healthcare bills — one to negotiate drug prices and the other to allow individual states options to expand Medicaid.
The moves come after Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly blocked Republican efforts this year to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“Our Republican colleagues seem fixated on tearing down the healthcare system rather than building a system that actually works,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico in in a statement.
Lujuan introduced the State Public Option Act, which would allow states create a public option by expanding Medicaid eligibility to any individual who wants to buy into the program.
“Our objective should be to have a competition of ideas. … I think it’s a golden age in terms of policy ideas when it comes to Democrats and health care,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, the bill’s co-sponsor, told reporters Wednesday. “We want to make sure that people understand that we have a vision for the future.”
The bill has 17 cosponsors in the Senate. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan introduced a bill earlier this year that would allow individuals to buy into Medicaid at 55.
“Our goal with this bill is simple — to expand the availability of low-cost, high-quality health plans to all Americans by establishing a state public option through Medicaid,” Lujan said. “We think our approach will positively impact Americans at all income levels in all parts of the country.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who supports the legislation, has proposed single-payer government healthcare plan.
Sanders also supports new legislation introduced in the House and the Senate that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with drug companies for those in Medicare’s prescription drug program.
Sanders said he hopes President Donald Trump backs the plan.
“Well the campaign is over,” Sanders said at news conference. “He’s president now. We need him to join us in taking on the pharmaceutical industry.”
While campaigning for president in January 2016, Trump told a crowd in Farmington, N.H., that the policy on Medicare would save billions. In March, Democrat Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont showed Trump a draft of the bill.
In a White House readout of the meeting, Trump “expressed his desire to work” with Cummings to make drug prices more affordable but didn’t mention having Medicare officials negotiate with the drug companies.
Cummings said he has written three letters without a response from the president.
“The truth is that we have made every possible effort to collaborate with you in good faith for the better part of this year,” said Cummings, reading from the third letter at the news conference. “Unfortunately, our efforts were met with radio silence.”
Cummings said “it has to have Trump’s support, no doubt about it.”
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a powerful drug industry trade group, is opposed to the legislation.
“Price controls handicap U.S. companies, threaten 4.5 million jobs and, as studies have proven, fail to legitimately improve access to medicines,” Jay Taylor, PEMA’s vice president of international advocacy wrote in May.