Trump says Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs to end rigged system

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech about lowering prescription drug prices from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 11, 2018.

President Donald Trump said Medicare will start negotiating drug prices to bring costs in line for its Part B coverage with what other nations pay for the same drugs.

The Department of Health and Human Services would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices based on the cheaper prices other nation’s pay, he announced Thursday.

“Americans pay more so that other countries can pay less,” Trump said. “The government pays whatever price the drug companies ask … not any more.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a tweet Thursday morning that Trump would discuss “the administration’s efforts to address the high cost of prescription drugs, and our work to put American patients first.”

Azar released a report earlier in the day that said the U.S. pays 1.8 times more, and some times four times as much, for prescriptions covered by Medicare Part B than other nations.

“The United States will finally be able to confront one of the most unfair practices … that drives up the cost of medicine,” Trump said. “For decades other countries have rigged the system so that American patients are charged much more, and in some cases much, much more for the exact same drug,” he said.

Medicare reimburses the list price of the drug plus 6 percent, so capping price increases could help lower the program’s costs. Total Medicare drug spending reached $162 billion in 2015, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Because @POTUS

wants to end global freeloading, we compared prices for the most costly physician-administered drugs that are covered and paid for by Medicare Part B,” Azar tweeted. The “prices for Part B drugs in America exceed the prices paid in countries with similar economic conditions.”

In May, Trump said it was time to end the “global freeloading once and for all,” referring to how some countries set price controls and therefore pay less for drugs than Americans, while U.S. companies invest in research and drug development.

—CNBC’s Angelica LaVito contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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