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Democrats reach deal to lower prescription drug prices in $1.75 trillion bill

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Washington — Democrats in Congress reached a deal on Tuesday to lower the price of prescription drugs as part of President Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan, overcoming a key sticking point in ongoing negotiations over the president's domestic policy agenda.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the agreement, and said the deal would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices in Part B and Part D once the drugs have been on the market for a certain period of time. Schumer added that the measure would lower the cost of insulin, cap Medicare patients' out-of-pocket spending at $2,000 per year and prevent price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry.

"Fixing prescription drug pricing has consistently been a top issue for Americans year after year, including the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans, who want to see a change because they simply cannot afford their medications," Schumer said at a press conference at the Capitol. "Today, we've taken a massive step forward in helping alleviate that problem."

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Tom Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Schumer said Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona agreed to this proposal. A spokesperson for Sinema said the senator "welcomes" the agreement and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi contacted her over the weekend to continue negotiations.

"The Senator welcomes a new agreement on a historic, transformative Medicare drug negotiation plan that will reduce out-of-pocket costs for seniors — ensuring drug prices cannot rise faster than inflation — save taxpayer dollars, and protect innovation to ensure Arizonans and Americans continue to have access to life-saving medications, and new cures and therapeutics," said John LaBombard, Sinema's communications director.

Pelosi said the deal means Democrats "have a path forward to make good on this transformational agenda for our seniors."

"We are now finishing the drafting of the legislative text to reflect this important agreement," the speaker said in a statement. "I am pleased with the compromise reached by House Members and Senator Sinema."

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told reporters that Medicare could start negotiating prices in 2023 for the "most expensive drugs" that treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

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