Trump Prescription Drugs

FILE- In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks about proposed reforms to Medicare Part B drug pricing policies at the Brookings Institute in Washington. The Trump administration says it is moving ahead with a plan to let patients directly receive prescription drug discounts negotiated behind-the-scenes between drugmakers, middlemen, and insurers. Azar said Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, the proposed regulation would encourage the major industry players to channel any such discounts to consumers when they purchase their prescriptions. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s top health official asked Congress on Friday to pass its new prescription drug discount plan and provide it to all patients, not just those covered by government programs like Medicare.

The plan would take now-hidden rebates among industry players like drug companies and insurers and channel them directly to consumers when they go to pay for their medications.

Patients with high drug copays stand to benefit from the proposal, while people who take no prescription drugs, or who rely on generics mainly, would probably pay somewhat more, since premiums are expected to rise.

A day after unveiling the plan as a proposed regulation, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar raised the stakes by calling on Congress to make it law and broaden it to include people covered by employer health insurance, not just Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Congress has an opportunity to follow through on their calls for transparency ... by passing our proposal into law immediately and extending it into the commercial drug market,” Azar said in a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank.

Ahead of next week’s State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump is under political pressure to show results for his promise to slash prescription drug costs. Data show that prices for brand-name drugs have continued to rise, though at a somewhat slower pace. Polls show consumers across the political spectrum want government action.

Democrats say the administration’s plan doesn’t go far enough because it still leaves drug companies free to set high list prices. They say drug pricing is like a black box, and it’s impossible to tell if prices reflect actual costs or if companies are charging what they think the

market will bear.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says she’s also worried that the plan would raise premiums.

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