President Trump hints at possible reversal of Medicare drug negotiation pledge

President Trump may have promised to negotiate drug prices through Medicare, but Big Pharma has changed his mind

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 1, 2017 1:20PM (EST)

 ((AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File))
((AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File))

After meeting with pharmaceutical executives and lobbyists on Tuesday, President Trump seems to have reversed his campaign pledge to use Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.

Calling Medicare "the biggest dog in the market," Trump hinted that he wouldn't be negotiating on behalf of millions of Americans.

"I'll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market," President Trump told his pool reporters on Tuesday. "That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what's happening. But we can increase competition and bidding wars, big time.

"So what I want, we have to get lower prices, we have to get even better innovation and I want you to move your companies back into the United States. And I want you to manufacture in the United States. We're going to be lowering taxes, we're going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary."

While this statement isn't a definitive reversal of his stance, it continues the post-election trend of Trump moving farther to the right on Medicare than his campaign rhetoric indicated. Most significantly, he chose Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a Republican who has wanted to privatize Medicare, to be in charge of the Health and Human Services department.

Currently Medicare can't negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies due to a 2003 law that, while creating Medicare's Part D drug program, required that drug price negotiations be conducted by insurance companies rather than the government. Earlier this month President Trump called for reversing this policy and allowing the government to directly negotiate with drug manufacturers, arguing that under the current system Big Pharma is "getting away with murder. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly, and we’re going to save billions of dollars."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Drug Prices Drugs Medicare Prescription Drugs