Cantwell Calls for States to Negotiate Drug Prices to Drive Down Costs for Millions of Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance about high prescription drug prices, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the committee, called for health care payment models that empower states to negotiate drug prices in bulk to drive down costs for millions of Americans. 

“I call it a “Costco Model” – if you buy in bulk, you get a discount,” Cantwell said. “We’re clearly doing it with the VA. The question debated here is whether we should spread that out to cover more federal programs, which is what is being done in Canada, and whether we should use those same market forces in allowing states to negotiate.” 

At the hearing, Cantwell mentioned a plan Washington state’s Medicaid program is currently pursuing to secure lower costs on hepatitis C drugs for more residents by contracting directly with drug manufacturers. She also had strong words for the CEOs of seven major American pharmaceutical companies, who testified at the hearing. 

“Well, I will tell you what is absurd is the fact that you got a $6.3 billion tax break in the last tax bill, and you can’t even say that you are for basic market functions like giving people discounts when they’re bundled and you get volume,” Cantwell said. 

Cantwell has long supported efforts to drive down prescription drug prices. She introduced the Basic Health Plan provision included in the Affordable Care Act, which has allowed New York and Minnesota to negotiate health care prices for large populations in bulk, driving down costs for hundreds of thousands of Americans. And in January, she joined Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to introduce bills to empower Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors and allow Americans to import safe, low-cost prescription drugs from Canada.