Price Caps on Insulin, Annual Spending Included in Build Back Better Deal, Schumer Says

Democrats have reached a deal to lower prescription drug prices as part of their social spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday afternoon.

The Build Back Better legislation will cap out-of-pocket spending at $2,000 per year for seniors, allow Medicare to negotiate prices in parts B and D, and lower the price of insulin from $600 to $35, the New York Democrat told reporters.

Schumer said the bill will reduce out-of-pocket drug expenses for "millions of patients."

"Fixing prescription drug prices has consistently been a top issue for Americans year after year, including the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans who want to see a change because they simply cannot afford their medications," he said. "We've heard this from people across the country who have serious illnesses and can't afford their medicine."

U.S. Congressman Scott Peters, a moderate California Democrat who led negotiations, wrote in a statement that the compromise will also penalize manufacturers who raise the price of a drug beyond the inflation rate for drugs in Medicare parts B and D, and that it will establish reporting requirements for pharmacy benefits management.

Schumer acknowledged that some proposals supported by progressive Democrats were dropped, but he still lauded the agreement as progress on an issue Democrats have long campaigned on.

"It's not everything we all wanted. Many of us would have wanted to go much further, but it's a big step in helping the American people deal with the price of drugs," he said.

Some centrist Democrats previously voiced resistance to more sweeping proposals backed by progressives. One of them, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist from Arizona, offered praise for the agreement on Tuesday.

"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," her office said in a statement.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement she is "pleased" with the compromise.

"In the Build Back Better Act, Democrats will deliver strong drug price negotiations to lower prices for our seniors and halt Big Pharma's outrageous price hikes above inflation, not just for seniors but for all Americans," she explained.

The legislative text was still being drafted as of Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi said.

Democrats have long pushed for allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a proposal that has polled well with the public.

A Morning Consult poll released Tuesday found that 72 percent of respondents supported allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted in early October found that 88 percent of Americans support federal funding to lower prescription drug prices.

Democrats have spent months debating the details of two infrastructure bills.

A bipartisan bill that would fund traditional infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges, passed the Senate in August. Democrats have also supported a "human" infrastructure bill intended to expand the social safety net, but it has been whittled down by moderates.

Because Democrats have only a narrow majority in the Senate, they cannot afford a single defector on the social spending bill. In the House, they have a slightly larger majority but can only spare a few members not supporting the legislation.

The agreement marks progress in the debate, but moderates and progressives continue to go back and forth over other details. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, on Monday voiced more concerns about the social spending bill—sparking backlash from other Democrats.

Updated 5:16 PM ET, with additional information.

Insulin
The price of insulin, pictured above, will be lowered to $35 as part of Democrats’ plan to lower prescription drug prices. Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images