As Congress considers expanding Medicare benefits through the budget reconciliation process, a new HHS report expresses the agency’s support for “bold legislative action” to bring down drug prices and outlines a “comprehensive” plan that includes several administrative actions it could take to promote competition among drug companies. Notably, the report calls for legislation allowing HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to directly negotiate drug prices with manufacturers for coverage under the Medicare Parts B and D programs and to make those prices available to other payers, and the exploration of various concepts by the CMS Innovation Center.

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation on Sept. 9 issued the report in response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which called for a multitude of actions from HHS, including lowering the prices of and improving access to prescription drugs and biosimilars. Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to fee-for-service Medicare as part of a $3.5 trillion spending package that Senate Democrats aim to pass via budget reconciliation, and drug pricing has been viewed as a way to pay for those enhancements.

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