Provisions from Klobuchar’s bill to empower Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices were signed into law last year

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Peter Welch (D-VT), and 23 of their colleagues introduced legislation to boost Medicare negotiation of drug prices to lower prescription drug costs for consumers. The Strengthening Medicare and Reducing Taxpayer (SMART) Prices Act would give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enhanced authority to negotiate for Medicare Part D. 

This legislation builds on Klobuchar and Welch’s provision included in the Inflation Reduction Act that empowered Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time, unleashing the power of Medicare’s 50 million seniors to help lower drug prices for all Americans. The Strengthening Medicare and Reducing Taxpayer (SMART) Prices Act builds on this progress, specifically allowing prescription drugs and biologics to be eligible for negotiation five years after approval by the Food and Drug Administration and increasing the overall amount by which Medicare can lower prices through negotiation. 

“Last year, we took significant steps towards bringing down prescription costs when provisions based on my bill to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices were signed into law. But there’s still more we can do to build on this progress,” said Klobuchar. “By strengthening Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices, our legislation will lower prescription costs on even more drugs and save taxpayers money.  I’ll keep working to ensure all Americans can reliably access the affordable, life-saving medications they need.”

“Far too many Vermonters struggle to pay for the prescription drugs they need,” said Welch. “Last Congress, Senator Klobuchar and I successfully championed historic prescription drug price negotiation provisions within the Inflation Reduction Act. I’m proud to continue the fight – and our partnership – by introducing the SMART Prices Act. This bill will build on our wins in the Inflation Reduction Act and give Medicare the ability to negotiate the price of more prescription drugs and lower the cost of those drugs at a faster pace.”

The SMART Prices Act would also lower Medicare Part B drug prices through negotiation two years earlier than under current law, and increase the overall number of drugs that HHS can negotiate starting in 2026.

The SMART Prices Act is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“No American should go broke just to afford the medications they need to stay healthy. Our Inflation Reduction Act finally empowered Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, but that was just the first step to tackling big drug companies’ high costs,” said Baldwin. “We need to do more to hold big pharma accountable and provide relief for our seniors who are struggling to afford their medications. The SMART Prices Act builds on the progress we’ve made for our seniors by lowering the cost of more prescription drugs, sooner, and saving taxpayers money.”

“Expanding Medicare’s ability to negotiate prescription drug prices will save patients billions of dollars,” said Blumenthal. “The Inflation Reduction Act took historic steps to protect Americans from the crushing burden of health care costs that forces many to ration critical medication or go without food and other essentials. Our legislation strengthens these measures to prioritize families and seniors over drug companies’ profits.”     

“Our current health care system does not work for many Americans, with skyrocketing drug prices and healthcare costs burdening families across our country,” said Booker. “Through the Inflation Reduction Act, we made significant progress by enabling the government to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of patients. That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill that would build on that success by making prescription drugs more affordable and accessible for all Americans."

“Prescription drugs are too expensive for too many Ohio families and they’re straining families’ budgets every month. After years of fighting opposition from Big Pharma, and the politicians who always do their lobbyists’ bidding, we finally made progress with the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Brown. “This legislation will build on those wins and lower prices at the pharmacy counter.”

“Lowering prescription drug prices is essential to ensuring people can access the medications prescribed by their health care provider. That is why I’m pleased to co-sponsor the SMART Prices Act,” said Cardin. “By building on the progress made through the Inflation Reduction Act, this legislation will strengthen Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices and make drugs more affordable for our seniors.”

“Nevadans deserve affordable access to the medications they need, and I’m fighting to lower the costs of their prescription drugs,” said Cortez Masto. “Our SMART Prices Act will strengthen the Inflation Reduction Act we passed into law by expanding and accelerating Medicare’s drug price negotiation powers to ensure seniors can get a better deal and lower drug prices while saving our government billions of dollars to combat inflation.”

“When Americans visit the pharmacy, they hold their breath, hoping that their new prescription is affordable. That’s why Democrats last year passed the Inflation Reduction Act, to enable Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma to lower costs for seniors. Now it’s time to build upon our historic relief for patients by expanding these savings on drugs. The SMART Prices Act will help lower the outrageous cost of prescription drugs,” said Durbin.

“Too many New Yorkers are forced to choose between paying for the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy and other basic necessities,” said Gillibrand. “I’m proud to be introducing legislation today to help bring down the unacceptably high cost of lifesaving drugs and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get it passed.”

“Last year, we took on Big Pharma and moved to help lower prescription drug costs by finally allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of medications. Now we have the opportunity to accelerate this progress through the SMART Prices Act,” said Hassan. “I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense, cost-saving bill. Everyone should be able to afford the medications that they need.”

“Last year, I was proud to join my Democratic colleagues as we took an important step to lower health care costs by empowering Medicare Part D to negotiate directly with drug companies. Now we need to go even further. That’s why I am supporting this legislation to build on our momentum and make prescription drugs more affordable to all seniors enrolled in Medicare,” said Heinrich.

“For far too long, Big Pharma has pinched patients’ pocketbooks and locked life-saving medicine in an ivory tower,” said Markey. “The Inflation Reduction Act empowered the federal government to negotiate down the cost of prescription drugs—and with the SMART Prices Act, we can go even further in lowering costs and ensuring that Americans on Medicare have access to the medicine they need at a price they can afford.”

“For too long, Big Pharma got away with unfairly over-charging Americans for prescription drugs. Democrats changed that by passing the Inflation Reduction Act to allow Medicare to use its purchasing power to negotiate lower prices. The SMART Prices Act would accelerate and expand the progress from that new law by making life-saving medications more affordable for all,” said Reed.

“Cost should never be a barrier to care for lifesaving medication. That's why I supported provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act to cap insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries and to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices that lower costs for our older adults. While these were historic first steps, more must be done to make prescription medications affordable for more Americans,” said Shaheen. “The SMART Prices Act will build on that progress by strengthening provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act by expanding and enhancing Medicare’s ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to further bring down drug prices for older adults. The American people have paid sky-high prescription drug prices for far too long, and I’m proud to help introduce legislation to reverse that trend.”

“Since my first day in office, I’ve promised Minnesotans that I would work to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and expand access to health care,” said Smith. “We made real progress with the Inflation Reduction Act, and this legislation would pick up where we left off by empowering Medicare to negotiate lower prices faster and for more prescription drugs. I’ll keep working to get this passed and make sure everyone has access to the medication they need.”

“Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare is now able to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for seniors,” said Warren. “The Strengthening Medicare and Reducing Taxpayers (SMART) Prices Act will expand these provisions to ensure more drugs are eligible for negotiation – and sooner, providing relief to millions of seniors.”

“Democrats’ historic Inflation Reduction Act finally gave Medicare a seat at the table to negotiate lower drug prices for our nation’s seniors.  As those negotiations kick off in earnest this year, we should build on our progress by passing the SMART Prices Act, legislation that will strengthen Medicare’s hand and help lower health care costs for seniors and families,” said Whitehouse.

The legislation is endorsed by the Center for American Progress, Families USA, Lower Drug Prices Now, National Multiple Sclerosis Society,  Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, Protect Our Care, and Public Citizen. 

“We are grateful to Senators Klobuchar and Welch for being relentless champions in the fight to lower drug prices for patients and all Americans. The SMART Prices Act builds on the momentum generated by the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act to expand its reach and bring relief to more people by increasing the number of drugs subject to Medicare negotiation and mandating earlier negotiation. This bill moves us in the right direction to continue to overhaul the current drug price system to ensure it works for the patients it is supposed to serve instead of the people who profit from it,” said David Mitchell, cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now.

“The Inflation Reduction Act has been a major step forward in reining in drug company greed, but there is more work to be done to ensure everyone can benefit from its savings. Senator Klobuchar has been a tireless advocate for fixing the broken system that has allowed drug companies to charge Americans three times more for the same medications than they do in other countries. Senators Klobuchar and Welch’s bill will strengthen Medicare’s power to negotiate, ensuring that lower prices are available to everyone and increasing savings for hardworking families. This legislation is an essential next step as we work to finish the job of the Inflation Reduction Act and ensure everyone can afford the care they need,” said Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care.

“The SMART Prices Act makes pivotal updates to the Medicare drug price negotiation provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act to make more drugs more accessible and affordable for more Medicare beneficiaries. By increasing the number of drugs to be negotiated each year, narrowing exceptions for many high-price drugs based on the time since their FDA approval, and lowering maximum fair price ceilings, Medicare drug price negotiation can be an even more effective tool for helping seniors access the medications they need,” said Nicole Rapfogel, health policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.

“The Inflation Reduction Act was historic legislation that took vital steps toward reining in Big Pharma’s relentless price-gouging on prescription drug prices. Senators Klobuchar and Welch’s bill builds on that progress to provide more relief for millions more people facing sky-high prices for prescription medicines they use every day. We applaud the Senators for introducing this important legislation,” said Margarida Jorge, campaign director of Lower Drug Prices Now.

“High drug costs remain a growing problem for too many of our nation's families. We believe the drug price reforms Congressional Democrats passed last year will provide significant savings for millions of older adults and people with disabilities who access health coverage through Medicare. However, these reforms could be expanded upon to include more drugs earlier. Families USA is proud to endorse the legislation from Senators Klobuchar and Welch that builds on the foundation of last year’s sweeping drug pricing reforms. It will ensure greater savings and allow Medicare to negotiate more drugs with shorter time limitations,” said Sophia Tripoli, senior director of health policy at Families USA. 

“Congressional Democrats and President Biden delivered Big Pharma its first major defeat in a generation through passing Medicare drug price negotiations and inflationary rebates in the Inflation Reduction Act. This was a generational achievement, but it is imperative to expand the law’s reach. Public Citizen is proud to endorse the SMART Prices Act, which would build on the new Medicare drug price negotiation law to lower the prices of more medicines for more beneficiaries sooner. We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Klobuchar and Welch in putting forward this legislation and taking the fight to drug corporations’ price gouging,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines Program at Public Citizen.

As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has long led efforts to lower drug prices. Provisions from Klobuchar’s bill to empower Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and unleash the power of Medicare’s 50 million seniors to help lower drug prices for all Americans were signed into law last August as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Last month, Klobuchar and Cortez Masto introduced the Lower Drug Costs for Families Act, legislation to lower prices by extending the inflation rebates in the Inflation Reduction Act and further protecting consumers from price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies..

In February, two of Klobuchar and Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) bipartisan bills to promote competition and reduce drug prices - the Preserving Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act and the Stop STALLING Act - passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by voice vote. 

The Preserving Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act would limit anticompetitive “pay-for-delay” deals that prevent or delay the introduction of affordable follow-on versions of branded pharmaceuticals.  

The Stop Significant and Time-wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics  (Stop STALLING) Act would deter pharmaceutical companies from filing sham petitions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to interfere with the approval of generic and biosimilar medicines that compete with their own brand products, a tactic that delays patient access to affordable medications.

Last June, Klobuchar and Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the parallel price increases for two commonly-used blood thinner medications: Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ Xarelto and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)-Pfizer’s Eliquis. The lawmakers expressed concern that lockstep pricing practices and the general lack of competitive behavior exhibited by these drug sellers may constitute potential unlawful conduct. 

In March 2022, Klobuchar led a group of bicameral colleagues in calling out drug manufacturers for rapid and widespread price hikes on prescription drugs. 

In February 2022, Klobuchar and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act, which would allow Medicare to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the Veterans’ Administration (VA). The prices the VA pays for prescription drugs are roughly half the amount of prices paid by Medicare Part D for the same products. 

In February 2021, Klobuchar and Grassley introduced bipartisan legislation to allow imports of more affordable prescription drugs from Canada. The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act would allow Americans to safely import prescription drugs from Canada, lowering prices for consumers and promoting competition in the pharmaceutical market.