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COVERAGE: In Act of Desperation, Trump Issues “Toothless” Executive Order on Drug Prices

By September 14, 2020No Comments

Yesterday, Donald Trump continued to play politics with Americans’ health care by signing an executive order that he claims will lower prescription drug prices in an effort to intentionally mislead voters ahead of Election Day. Reporters and experts were quick to point out that in reality, this stunt does nothing to actually lower drug prices, calling the order “toothless.” In order to lower prices, President Trump would need to put regulations into place — a process that takes considerable time and one that he has continually skipped. The New York Times also pointed out that the order relies on authority under the Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration is actively trying to overturn in court. Since taking office, President Trump has broken his promise to stop drug prices from skyrocketing. Sunday’s executive order is more of the same.

The executive order requires additional regulations that would take months to go into effect, if the administration even puts them into place:

Washington Post:The Health 202: Trump Issued Another Toothless Executive Order on Drug Prices. “President Trump proclaimed yesterday that he’ll go even bigger and bolder on a long-touted effort to lower drug prices in the United States.But he has yet to put any teeth into the effort, nearly two years after first announcing it.In a move widely regarded as a political play seven weeks before the election, Trump announced via tweet he had signed an executive order aiming to lower drug prices in the Medicare program through what is known as ‘the most favored nation policy.'” [Washington Post, 9/14/20

NPR: “As With Most Executive Actions, This Only Just Begins What Will Be a Lengthy Bureaucratic Process That May or May Not Ultimately Result in the Promised Policy.” “President Trump signed an executive order Sunday that he says lowers prescription drug prices ‘by putting America first,’ but experts say the move is unlikely to have any immediate impact….The order calls on the Health and Human Services secretary to ‘immediately take appropriate steps to implement his rulemaking plan to test a payment model’ putting in place ‘most favored nations’ policy. Translated: As with most executive actions, this only just begins what will be a lengthy bureaucratic process that may or may not ultimately result in the promised policy.” [NPR, 9/13/20

Axios: “Given That [Trump’s] Had Four Years Already to Act On What Was Also a Big Issue In 2016, There’s Plenty of Reason to Be Skeptical Of This Ever Translating Into Official Policy.” “It’s September of an election year. That means that this executive order is, at best, a statement of Trump’s intention to keep trying to achieve something big on drug prices should he get a second term. But given that he’s had four years already to act on what was also a big issue in 2016, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of this ever translating into official policy.” [Axios, 9/14/20

CNN: The Latest Executive Orders Come as Most of Trump’s Actions on Drug Pricing “Remain in the Proposal Phase Or Have Been Rejected By The Courts.” “Unlikely to have any impact before the election, the executive orders come at a time when Trump is trying to fulfill his longstanding campaign promise to lower drug prices, though little movement has been made. Most of the administration’s actions — including the effort to import medication from Canada — remain in the proposal phase or have been rejected by the courts.” [CNN, 9/13/20

Stat: With Election Looming, Trump Releases Major, Last-Ditch Drug Pricing Order. “The Trump administration still hasn’t released formal regulations to implement the policy. That process typically takes months, if not years…It’s still unclear when the Trump administration will formally implement the new executive order. Drug industry lobbyists expect Trump to try and skip over most of the formal regulatory steps by issuing a so-called interim final rule, a rare regulatory maneuver that lets president’s skip most of the formal regulatory steps in certain emergencies. However, the drug industry has hinted it will sue if Trump tries to use that maneuver.” [Stat, 9/13/20

The executive order relies on authority given to the administration under the Affordable Care Act, which Trump is actively trying to overturn in court: 

New York Times: In An “Odd Twist,” the Administration Is “Relying on Its Authority Under the Affordable Care Act, Which Mr. Trump and His Fellow Republicans Are Trying to Overturn in the Supreme Court.” “But it is unclear whether the White House has the authority to put the expansive order into effect. And in an odd twist, in calling for the secretary to set up the model programs, the administration is relying on its authority under the Affordable Care Act, which Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans are trying to overturn in the Supreme Court.” [New York Times, 9/13/20

House Democrats already passed legislation that would be more effective in lowering prescription drug prices: 

Wall Street Journal: “Drug Experts Say That the Best Way to Lower Drug Prices Under Medicare is to Grant the Agency the Legal Authority to Directly Negotiate Prices with Drug Companies. This Measure Wouldn’t Do That.” “The proposed executive order would appear to be of limited immediate effect. Experts see the order as the administration’s effort to show it is taking steps to lower drug pricing, as the president seeks reelection. Drug-pricing experts say that the best way to lower prices under Medicare is to grant the agency the legal authority to directly negotiate prices with drug companies. This measure wouldn’t do that.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/13/20


The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt Said “President Trump’s Executive Order on Drug Pricing Does Not by Itself Do Anything.” “President Trump’s executive order on drug pricing does not by itself do anything. It has to be followed up by regulations, which will take time. Trump has a history of bold talk on drug prices, only to pull back when it comes to putting actual regulations in place,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt tweeted. [Axios, 9/14/20

Rachel Sachs, Associate Professor Of Law At Washington University in St. Louis, Noted That House Democrats Already Passed A Bill That Would Use International Reference Pricing, But “Trump Threatened to Veto That Bill.” “In addition, Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis who covers prescription drug policy, reminded her Twitter followers on Sunday that ‘in December 2019, the House (led by the Democratic caucus) passed a bill that would’ve used international reference pricing to lower the price of drugs in Medicare.’ ‘Trump threatened to veto that bill,’ she wrote.” [New York Times, 9/13/20

Dan Mendelson, Founder Of Avalere Health, Said Trump’s Order Would Not Affect Drug Prices Before the Election, Adding That Biden Has “A 20 Point Advantage Over Trump On Covid-19, So It’s Not Surprising to See the Administration Try to Change The Subject.” “Dan Mendelson, founder of consultancy Avalere Health, said Trump’s move would not affect drug prices for senior citizens before the Nov. 3 election, adding that polling shows Americans are more concerned with the coronavirus than drug prices. He said Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden “has a 20 point advantage over the Trump on Covid19, so it’s not surprising to see the administration try to change the subject.” [Reuters, 9/13/20