Press Release

Welch, Klobuchar, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Boost Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation, Lower Costs for Americans 

Apr 25, 2023

Senator Peter Welch (D-VT), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and 23 of their colleagues introduced legislation to boost Medicare negotiation of drug prices to lower prescription drug costs for consumers. The Strengthening Medicare and Reducing Taxpayer (SMART) Prices Act would give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enhanced authority to negotiate for Medicare Part D.  

This legislation builds on a provision Welch and Klobuchar included in the Inflation Reduction Act that empowered Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time, unleashing the power of Medicare’s 50 million seniors to help lower drug prices for all Americans. The Strengthening Medicare and Reducing Taxpayer (SMART) Prices Act builds on this progress—allowing prescription drugs and biologics to be eligible for negotiation five years after approval by the Food and Drug Administration and increasing the overall amount by which Medicare can lower prices through negotiation.  

“Far too many Vermonters struggle to pay for the prescription drugs they need,” said Sen. Welch. “Last Congress, Senator Klobuchar and I successfully championed historic prescription drug price negotiation provisions within the Inflation Reduction Act. I’m proud to continue the fight—and our partnership—by introducing the SMART Prices Act. This bill will build on our wins in the Inflation Reduction Act by giving Medicare the ability to negotiate the prices of more prescription drugs and lower the cost of those drugs at a faster pace.” 

“Last year, we took significant steps towards bringing down prescription costs when provisions based on my bill to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices were signed into law. But there’s still more we can do to build on this progress,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “By strengthening Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices, our legislation will lower prescription costs on even more drugs and save taxpayers money.  I’ll keep working to ensure all Americans can reliably access the affordable, life-saving medications they need.” 

The SMART Prices Act would also lower Medicare Part B drug prices through negotiation two years earlier than under current law, and increase the overall number of drugs that HHS can negotiate starting in 2026. 

The legislation is endorsed by the Center for American Progress, Families USA, Lower Drug Prices Now, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, Protect Our Care, and Public Citizen.  

“We are grateful to Senators Klobuchar and Welch for being relentless champions in the fight to lower drug prices for patients and all Americans. The SMART Prices Act builds on the momentum generated by the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act to expand its reach and bring relief to more people by increasing the number of drugs subject to Medicare negotiation and mandating earlier negotiation. This bill moves us in the right direction to continue to overhaul the current drug price system to ensure it works for the patients it is supposed to serve instead of the people who profit from it,” said David Mitchell, cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. 

“The Inflation Reduction Act has been a major step forward in reining in drug company greed, but there is more work to be done to ensure everyone can benefit from its savings. Senators Klobuchar and Welch’s bill will strengthen Medicare’s power to negotiate, ensuring that lower prices are available to everyone and increasing savings for hardworking families. This legislation is an essential next step as we work to finish the job of the Inflation Reduction Act and ensure everyone can afford the care they need,” said Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care. 

“The SMART Prices Act makes pivotal updates to the Medicare drug price negotiation provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act to make more drugs more accessible and affordable for more Medicare beneficiaries. By increasing the number of drugs to be negotiated each year, narrowing exceptions for many high-price drugs based on the time since their FDA approval, and lowering maximum fair price ceilings, Medicare drug price negotiation can be an even more effective tool for helping seniors access the medications they need,” said Nicole Rapfogel, health policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. 

“The Inflation Reduction Act was historic legislation that took vital steps toward reining in Big Pharma’s relentless price-gouging on prescription drug prices. Senators Klobuchar and Welch’s bill builds on that progress to provide more relief for millions more people facing sky-high prices for prescription medicines they use every day. We applaud the Senators for introducing this important legislation,” said Margarida Jorge, campaign director of Lower Drug Prices Now. 

“High drug costs remain a growing problem for too many of our nation’s families. We believe the drug price reforms Congressional Democrats passed last year will provide significant savings for millions of older adults and people with disabilities who access health coverage through Medicare. However, these reforms could be expanded upon to include more drugs earlier. Families USA is proud to endorse the legislation from Senators Klobuchar and Welch that builds on the foundation of last year’s sweeping drug pricing reforms. It will ensure greater savings and allow Medicare to negotiate more drugs with shorter time limitations,” said Sophia Tripoli, senior director of health policy at Families USA. 

“Congressional Democrats and President Biden delivered Big Pharma its first major defeat in a generation through passing Medicare drug price negotiations and inflationary rebates in the Inflation Reduction Act. This was a generational achievement, but it is imperative to expand the law’s reach. Public Citizen is proud to endorse the SMART Prices Act, which would build on the new Medicare drug price negotiation law to lower the prices of more medicines for more beneficiaries sooner. We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Klobuchar and Welch in putting forward this legislation and taking the fight to drug corporations’ price gouging,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines Program at Public Citizen. 

The SMART Prices Act is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).