SANTA FE – A bill supported by New Mexico’s all-Democratic congressional delegation that’s aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs cleared the U.S. House on Thursday, but could face long odds moving forward.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., the assistant House speaker, said the bill would ease the burden on New Mexicans struggling to pay for high-priced prescription drugs.
“New Mexico families shouldn’t have to choose between making ends meet and affording their prescriptions,” Luján said in a statement after the House voted 230-192 to approve the bill.
However, the legislation could face tough sledding in the Republican-controlled Senate, where a competing bill has been introduced. In addition, the White House has indicated President Donald Trump would veto the House-approved bill if it makes it to his desk.
The bill, which passed the House on a largely party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and most Republicans in opposition, would expand Medicare services to include dental, vision and hearing coverage.
That could have a big impact in New Mexico, where residents ages 65 or older were estimated to make up 17.5% of the state’s population as of last year – up from 13.2% in 2010 and 11.7% in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Among other provisions, the prescription drug bill would also direct the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers about the prices of medications for Medicare. In addition, it would set an annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare patients.
That provision is supported by the Trump administration, which claims other parts of the bill would undermine access to prescription drugs by reducing the number of new medications that hit the market.
Even if it does not win final approval, the prescription drug bill passed Thursday could provide Democrats with campaign fodder.
Shortly after Thursday’s vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched online ads supporting Democrats in some swing districts who supported the bill, including first-term U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M.
Torres Small is running for reelection next year in the southern New Mexico-based 2nd Congressional District, a traditionally Republican-leaning district. Three GOP candidates have announced campaigns for the party’s 2020 nomination: Claire Chase, Yvette Herrell and Chris Mathys.