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Trump to Drop Call for Medicare to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices

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WASHINGTON — President Trump will lay out on Friday a broad strategy to reduce prescription drug prices, but in a break from one of his most popular campaign promises, he will not call for Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers, senior administration officials said.

The White House will issue a blueprint that represents “the most comprehensive plan to tackle prescription drug affordability of any president,” a senior official told journalists on Thursday night.

Asked if the plan would include direct negotiations by Medicare, the official said, “No, we are talking about something different.”

“We are not calling for Medicare negotiation in the way that Democrats have called for,” the official said later. “We clearly want to make important changes that will dramatically improve the way negotiation takes place inside the Medicare program.”

As he campaigned for the presidency, Mr. Trump boldly broke with his party and embraced a longstanding Democratic proposal when he called for the federal government to use its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare recipients. The proposal was popular with voters but not with other Republican politicians, who had been battling it for years.

Under Part D of Medicare, millions of older Americans receive insurance coverage for prescription drugs. The benefit is delivered entirely by private entities under contract with Medicare. These private entities — insurance companies and the middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers — negotiate prices with drugmakers. But under a 2003 law, the federal government “may not interfere” in those negotiations.

The president’s plan will make it easier for private plans to negotiate “better deals for our seniors, especially for high-cost medications,” said the senior administration official, who spoke on the condition that he would not be named. The official refused to provide details, which he said would be disclosed on Friday.

Congressional Democrats said they would like to work with Mr. Trump on plans to rein in drug costs, but they predicted that his proposals would be inadequate.

“On the campaign trail, he spoke like a populist,” the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said on Thursday, in advance of the president’s speech. “He talked the talk, but he has failed — at least so far — to walk the walk.”

Mr. Trump plans to speak in the Rose Garden of the White House to an audience that includes members of Congress and patients who have suffered because of high drug costs.

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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/us/politics/trump-prescription-drug-costs.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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