What Trump’s Budget Means for Prescription Drug Costs

Prescription drugs
Photo by Semeniaka Aleksandr / Shutterstock.com

Much has been said about the federal budget proposal in the day or so since it was released. Critics are decrying Medicare cutbacks, while proponents laud increased national defense spending.

You can ignore most of it, though. Little if any of President Donald Trump’s $4.4 trillion proposal for fiscal year 2019 is expected to become a reality.

Presidential budget proposals are effectively no more than suggestions for Congress. It’s the legislative branch of the federal government — Congress — that has the power to write spending legislation and vote on whether it becomes law.

Of course, the executive branch has the power to veto bills passed by Congress, but that is technically about the extent of the president’s involvement in the process.

Bloomberg correspondent Michael McKee explains:

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and every president’s budget is always dead on arrival on Capitol Hill because the president proposes, Congress disposes — they decide how to spend the money. And on top of that, last week, [Congress] reached a two-year budget agreement that basically already sets their priorities. So, the president is coming late to this …”

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) — which crafted the 2019 budget proposal — said Monday that it is “absolutely not” dead on arrival. But he went on to describe the proposal as a “messaging document” to Congress.

Indeed, the first section of the 2019 budget proposal is a letter from Trump to Congress, titled “The Budget Message of the President.”

Defense and prescription drug prices

Although little if any of Trump’s proposed budget can be expected to become law, McKee cites two areas of Trump’s proposal that Congress might more seriously consider

Trump’s budget proposal for the Department of Defense calls for a larger Navy and $23 billion in funding for border security, $18 billion of which would go toward building a wall to try to prevent illegal immigration, McKee says. Such suggestions could become incorporated into law — if Republicans can push them through.

And although McKee says Trump’s call for $237 billion in cuts to the Medicare program “won’t be adopted,” Congress might embrace other aspects of his plans for the federal health insurance program primarily intended for folks age 65 and older. This includes efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

The White House has unveiled a five-part proposal it hopes will “modernize” the Medicare Part D drug benefit and lower drug costs through methods such as increasing Medicare Part D plan formulary flexibility and eliminating cost-sharing on generic drugs for low-income beneficiaries.

So, what’s your take on this news? Sound off below or over on our Facebook page.

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