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Fact Check: Big Pharma’s Top Loyalist Mitch McConnell Falsely Attacks Senator Hassan

Fact Check: Big Pharma’s Top Loyalist Mitch McConnell Falsely Attacks Senator Hassan For Working to Lower Drug Prices for Granite Staters The Washington Post’s Fact Checker Gave a Similar Ad “Three Pinocchios”

Big Pharma’s top loyalist Mitch McConnell today launched a false ad that attacks Senator Maggie Hassan for standing up to the prescription drug industry and working to lower drug prices for Granite Staters. “Big Pharma's top loyalist Mitch McConnell is falsely attacking Maggie Hassan for working to lower drug prices for Granite Staters,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Maggie Hassan has never been afraid to take on Big Pharma and it’s no wonder that Mitch McConnell, the drug industry’s top loyalist, is attacking her efforts to finally allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors – because McConnell knows that more than 80 percent of Americans, including more than 60 percent of Republicans, support breaking the drug companies’ grip on high drug prices. This is just McConnell’s latest, desperate attempt to buy New Hampshire’s Senate seat for his special interest allies.” The ad comes from One Nation, Mitch McConnell’s dark money group. McConnell is Big Pharma’s top loyalist in Washington, taking nearly $2 million from the pharmaceutical industry. In return, McConnell has consistently done the bidding of drug companies by voting against funding to combat the opioid crisis, opposing importing cheaper drugs from Canada, and passing a huge tax break for Big Pharma that raised taxes on New Hampshire’s middle class families. McConnell’s ad falsely attacks Senator Hassan for supporting an effort to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, which the Congressional Budget Office found would lower prescription drug prices by up to 75 percent. Nearly 81 percent of Americans - and 61 percent of Republicans - support breaking the drug companies’ grip on patients by letting Medicare negotiate lower drug prices. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave an ad with a similar false claimThree Pinocchios.” In a lengthy write-up, The Post found the ad’s claim that allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors would deny patients access to drugs was completely false. BACKGROUND: THE CLAIMS IN THIS AD HAVE BEEN THOROUGHLY DEBUNKED BY INDEPENDENT FACT CHECKERS The Washington Post Rated The Claim That Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices Would Deny Patients Drugs “Three Pinocchios.” “The ad misleadingly suggests that legislation is designed to restrict Sue’s drugs and make it harder for Medicare patients to get drugs. That’s not the intention at all. Drug manufacturers don’t want to have to negotiate with the government. But they shouldn’t describe a worst-case scenario as a legislative provision. The legislation does not call for a government-mandated formulary [...]” [Washington Post, Fact Checker, 8/10/21] Washington Post Fact Checker: Allowing Medicare To Negotiate Drug Prices Would Not Allow Medicare To Refuse To Cover Drugs, And Medicare Is Legally Required To Cover At Least Two Drugs In All Therapeutic Classes And All Drugs In Key Therapeutic Classes. “One bill, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, passed the House last session and has been introduced again. It would empower the HHS secretary to negotiate prices for selected drugs — 25 at first, with the number growing larger over time — that have little competition and account for substantial spending. […] PhRMA officials said that the ad’s language was based on provisions in the House bill, known as H.R. 3, as well as Wyden’s principles, as both would repeal the noninterference clause. (There are other bills as well, such as one offered by Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas.) But congressional aides involved in the legislation were mystified by Sue’s claims in the ad, saying the proposals would not allow the government to remove drugs from what is known as the formulary, the list of drugs that may be prescribed by a Plan D sponsor. ‘If you review the principles document they are referring to, I think it will be apparent that there is no policy suggesting that we are planning to ‘repeal a protection in Medicare that protects access to my medicines’ or let ‘the government decide what medicines I can get,’’ said Taylor Harvey, a spokesman for the Finance Committee. Medicare Part D is supposed to cover at least two drugs in each therapeutic class that treats a condition. But six classes of drugs — anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antineoplastics, antipsychotics, antiretrovirals and immunosuppressants — have been deemed ‘protected’ so that Part D plans are required to cover “all or substantially all drugs’ available. ‘There’s nothing in our principles document that references the six protected classes or any potential changes to that part of the law,’ Harvey said. Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of the program on Medicare policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was also puzzled by the ad’s claim. In H.R. 3, ‘there’s no requirement for the government to establish a formulary, as private Medicare Part D plans do, or make decisions about which drugs to cover and not cover under Medicare. Those decisions would still be made by individual Part D plans,’ she said, noting that ‘most drugs would not even be subject to the negotiation process.’ ‘The framing of the noninterference clause — which prohibits the government from being involved in price negotiations between manufacturers and plan sponsors — as a ‘protection’ is interesting, since in the 15 or so years since the MMA [Medicare Modernization Act] was passed, I don’t think that adjective has ever been used to describe it, since that provision doesn’t have anything to do with access to medications,’ Cubanski added. ‘While PhRMA may want to frame the discussion around drug price negotiation as one of access to medication, this framing doesn’t accurately reflect the process of negotiation as laid out in H.R. 3.’” [Washington Post, Fact Checker, 8/10/21] THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE FOUND THAT ALLOWING MEDICARE TO NEGOTIATE DRUG PRICES WOULD REDUCE DRUG PRICES BY UP TO 75% Congressional Budget Analysis: Allowing Medicare To Negotiate Drug Prices Would Reduce Drug Prices By 57% To 75%. “Moreover, the secretary would have the right to impose financial penalties, an escalating excise tax, on companies that do not reach an agreement. That last provision impressed the CBO enough that the nonpartisan agency concluded that the secretary would have enough leverage to reduce the cost of expensive drugs. The CBO said the bill would save more than $450 billion in government-provided health plans between 2020 and 2029. The CBO also said the law would add $45 billion in revenue because lower drug prices would reduce premiums for employer-provided health insurance, thus allowing for more taxable compensation. In a 2021 working paper, CBO analysts described how they had modeled the negotiations to determine that prices would fall between 57 percent and 75 percent, relative to current prices.” [Washington Post, 8/10/21] THE LEGISLATION WOULD ALSO CAP OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS FOR SENIORS AND SAVE MEDICARE BILLIONS H.R. 3 Would Cap Seniors’ Out-Of-Pocket Costs For Prescription Drugs At $2,000 Per Year. “[H.R. 3] would also cap seniors’ out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 a year. And it would require drug companies that have raised their prices above the inflation rate since 2016 to either lower their prices or rebate the portion back to the U.S. Treasury.” [Washington Post, 9/19/19] Congressional Budget Office: H.R. 3 Would Save Medicare $345 Billion Between 2023 And 2029. “In response to your request, the Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have been analyzing the effects of H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019, as introduced on September 19, 2019. This letter describes a preliminary estimate of the effects of title I of the bill on federal direct spending and revenues related to Part D of Medicare, the outpatient drug benefit. […] CBO estimates that applying the provisions in title I to prescription drugs covered under Part D of Medicare would reduce federal direct spending for Medicare by $345 billion over the 2023-2029 period (see Table 1).” [Congressional Budget Office, 10/11/19]


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