PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As congressional lawmakers wrestle over the details of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package, Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader is critical of at least one section.
“In my district, spending another $3.5 trillion is not universally approved of,” he said.
Schrader, who represents Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, was one of 3 Democrats to vote no this week on HR-3, a section tackling prescription drug prices by allowing renegotiations in Medicare Part D, which typically covers short-term prescriptions like antibiotics and drugs for other chronic conditions such as high cholesterol and heart disease.
While he supports price negotiations, Schrader told KOIN 6 News this is not the measure to pass.
“Medicare is facing insolvency by 2026,” he said. “We need to make sure that it’s viable for our kids and grandkids.”
Currently, Americans pay anywhere from 2-4 times more than other countries for the same drugs, according to a 2019 Ways and Means Committee study. That same report claimed renegotiating Part D prices could save Medicare about $49 billion a year.
Schrader said he voted “no” because “we’re trying to do too much too fast and this deserves more thought and deliberation. … The most expensive type of condition to treat — that’s Medicare Part B not Part D.”
He introduced an amendment that shifts negotiating power over to Medicare Part B, which covers specialty treatments for things like cancer. But he admits while his amendment targets a fast-growing expenditure by Medicaid, his bill won’t cost Big Pharma as much as HR-3.
He said it’s all to get something to President Biden’s desk.
“Pharmaceutical companies are going to take a big haircut under our bill. Maybe not quite as big as under the HR-3, but my bill has a chance of succeeding,” Schrader said. “My voters in my district, want something to happen, not just ‘Kurt Schrader wave a flag about what I think is the best policy.’ If the best policy can’t get through, we gotta come up with a plan B and make something happen.”
That plan is meant to draw Republican support — which he said HR-3 has no chance of getting.
“They see the same issues I do in terms of stifling innovation.”
That is innovation in pharmaceuticals, an industry that Schrader accepted more than $160,000 in donations from in 2020 and 2021.
“I say I take money, unfortunately, because (there’s) no campaign finance reform from just about anybody,” Schrader said. “And if Big Pharma thinks they’re getting a vote, they’re getting a pretty bad deal.”
Jordyn Siemens is a producer with KOIN 6 News