Two of the Trump administrations efforts to do something not horrible on health care have hit big snags. Last week, Trump touted a big initiative to treat kidney disease more effectively, an initiative that will go away if Trump prevails in his lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Oh, well.
Then his big push to make prescription drugs cheaper, an issue that rivals infrastructure in the frequency with which Trump makes big promises, fell through. Unlike infrastructure, his plan to lower drug prices actually got as far as a proposed rule, but it was yanked back last week. The idea behind it was to ban drug rebates that the drug companies give to insurance middlemen for negotiating prices in government programs like Medicare. The belief was that the rebates were inflating drug prices for the benefit of those rebate brokers, and by getting rid of them the savings would be passed on to consumers.
Analysis suggested that instead, the proposal would cost $180 billion over the next 10 years and drive up Medicaid premium costs, and the last thing the administration wants to do is raise Medicare premiums a year before an election. Because of course the drug companies weren’t going to pass savings on to consumers: they would far more likely pocket at least some of the rebate money.
So, don’t expect to have another week where Trump touts lowering drug prices. It’s about as likely to happen as infrastructure.