President TrumpDonald John TrumpCEO of National Enquirer parent company steps down Biden says he would shut US down amid pandemic if scientists said it was needed Warren calls for Postal Service board members to fire DeJoy or resign MORE is searching for a health care victory ahead of the 2020 election, and has turned to executive action to try to achieve it.
The administration is looking to fend off attacks from Democrats, who see the president as particularly vulnerable on health care.
Trump’s coronavirus response has put him on the defensive. More than 175,000 people have died in the U.S. as the virus continues to spread, and the economy is stymied.
In addition, the administration is actively pursuing a lawsuit at the Supreme Court to completely overturn ObamaCare, which would result in more than 20 million people losing health insurance.
Trump has no replacement plan if his lawsuit is successful.
Facing that backdrop, Trump in the past month has taken executive action, signing four orders aimed at lowering drug prices.
Three orders would move toward allowing states to develop plans to import cheaper drugs from Canada, eliminate a system of drug discounts known as rebates in a bid to simplify the system, and seek to make EpiPens and insulin more affordable for patients of community health centers.
Trump also announced a fourth, more sweeping order, to require drug companies to sell certain high-cost injectable drugs in America for the lowest price that they offer in a handful of other countries, something Trump called “most favored nation” status for the U.S.
Trump has long cast himself as “Big Pharma’s” main villain. He recently said drug prices will fall dramatically because of his actions.
“With what I am doing in the fight with the Drug Companies, drug prices will be coming down 50, 60, and even 70 per cent. The Democrats are fighting hard to stop me with big ad buys, plus. Likewise, Big Pharma. FAVORED NATIONS AND REBATES ARE BRINGING PRICES DOWN NOW. We will win!” Trump tweeted earlier this week.
It is unclear, though, when the moves can be finalized and take effect.
Even if Trump moves forward to implement the orders quickly, it would just mark the beginning of what would likely be a lengthy process that could be further stalled or halted by drug industry lawsuits.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said the administration officials are aware of the limitations, and are not trying to enact a sweeping policy change just ahead of the election.
Instead, O’Connell said voters should view the effort as Trump signaling a second-term policy.
“This is not necessarily reaching for a health care victory right now,” O’Connell said. “I find he is less vulnerable if he is making the case that [if] you reelect me, I’m going to make drug prices lower.”
Joel White, a health care industry consultant, said some of the executive orders have the potential to resonate with the public, even if the impact may be limited at best.