On Thursday, December 12, the House of Representatives adopted HR 3, Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. It passed by a vote of 230 to 192. The legislation would create new methods to control prescription drug prices. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had been guiding the package for several months with an eye toward a possible deal with the White House.
For child welfare advocates, the significance is that the bill includes the bipartisan Family First Transition Services Act S. 2777 and H.R. 4980. The child welfare bill was announced last August with bipartisan, bicameral support. The key provisions include $500 million in child welfare funds to help implement the Family First Act of 2018. It also allows states to spend the new Title IV-E services funding on any of the well-supported, supported, or promising programs without the current requirement that at least 50 percent of spending be spent on the well-support programs. The bill also provides a guarantee that the 22 waiver states will not receive any less than 90 percent of their waiver funding through the traditional Title IV-E foster care program.
The drug bill also includes provisions to extend the home visiting programs and to add funding to CAPTA. The child welfare and home visiting spending are possible because the prescription drug provisions should result in savings to federal health programs that cover prescription drugs especially Medicare. It represents a rare instance whereby Congress is providing additional funding in child welfare without making cuts in other child welfare programs.
The next steps for the House and Senate to compromise over a single proposal. On Friday, December 6, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released their bill, “Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act.” It includes provisions identical to the Family First Transition Act. That legislative text can be found HERE. The legislation also includes a number of health care extender provisions that can be found HERE.
The President is eager to get a deal, but the agreement between Grassley and Wyden, the two respective leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, may not be in alignment with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Then there is the need to compromise with the House. The House bill will be more generous in their bill in a number of areas. This week will tell whether it gets done this year or gets delayed until next year in the Senate, perhaps after an impeachment trial that is expected to dominate that body throughout January.