Although the US midterm elections are not completely over, it is now clear who controls each chamber of the US Congress. Media leading up to the midterm elections predicted a “red wave”: the US Senate and House of Representatives would be taken under Republican control, weakening President Joe Biden’s Democratic government. However, the election results reveal that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate and the Republicans secured only a narrow House victory. These findings will have important implications for the pharmaceutical industry and the US healthcare sector over the next two years.
When Democrats had control of the Senate and House, they were able to push through legislation, including drug price reforms by passing the Cut Inflation Act this summer. All Republicans voted against government negotiation on drug prices, and the pharmaceutical industry had fiercely opposed the Cut Inflation Act, which for the first time allows the government to negotiate on drug prices. . Now, with Congress divided, Democrats will struggle to push new legislation through both houses of Congress, and it will be difficult for the Biden administration to build on an agenda of the past two years. With a slim Republican majority, Democrats will have to persuade some House Republicans to support any new policies.
With Democrats taking control of the Senate, Biden can fill the federal courts with his nominees and staff as his administration sees fit. This is notable regarding states trying to repeal restrictive abortion laws, which some enacted after the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision earlier this year, and rights abortion will be easier to defend at the state level, where most of the legal battles will take place. With a Republican majority in the House, this body will likely focus more on oversight activities and bipartisan bargaining. Additionally, Republicans can subpoena officials and set agendas for major committees. Republicans are likely to criticize Biden’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the spending that has taken place in response to the public health emergency. Other health officials, like Anthony Fauci, Xavier Becerra and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, could also face criticism from the House in oversight hearings.
Following the midterm election results, former President Donald Trump also announced his intention to run in the 2024 presidential election. If re-elected, his second term could bring back health policies and programs seen in his first term, such as reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid. However, due to the controversies surrounding Trump and his declining popularity in recent years, he may be less likely to win the election than in 2016.
Health policy could also be influenced by the likely appointment of Bernie Sanders to head the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (Help), replacing Patty Murray, who will now lead the committee. senatorial of appropriations. If appointed to the position, Sanders will focus on universal health care and influence prescription drug costs. Sanders has campaigned to lower drug costs for years and has expressed strong views against the pharmaceutical industry. He also backed drug pricing reforms in the Cut Inflation Act and voiced support for new drug pricing measures, which the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) , Xavier Becerra, noted that the US government plans to explore. As the new head of the Senate HELP committee, Sanders could push committee meetings and legislative margins farther left than his predecessor.
Overall, Republicans taking control of the House means Biden will have a harder time getting his policies into law because approval is needed from both the upper and lower houses of Congress. As a result, no major new healthcare legislation is expected to be passed. However, the Democrats will be relieved to lose just one chamber of Congress to the Republicans, and even then the Republican Party will only have a slim majority in the House. Therefore, Democrats cannot be discouraged and are still trying to push legislation through both the Senate and the House if they can rally Republican support in the House behind any proposed bill.
For the pharmaceutical industry, many hopes have been dashed by any attempt to undo the drug price control provisions approved in the Inflation Reduction Act. The pharmaceutical industry had hoped for a fully Republican-controlled Congress. Instead, a divided Congress means that policy change is unlikely. Had there been a Republican majority in the Senate and House, some attempts could be made on the Inflation Reduction Act, even though a complete repeal of the Inflation Reduction Act would have little effect. chances of happening. Either way, with little likely success, Republicans will likely continue to push to weaken drug pricing reforms.
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