Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today introduced legislation to guarantee an affordable price for any COVID-19 vaccine whose development is funded by the federal government.
“Taxpayers have invested billions to quickly develop a safe and effective vaccine – Pharma can’t make Americans double-pay by charging a high price,” Wyden said. “This proposal locks in the price that the federal government has already negotiated and ensures taxpayers and consumers won’t be on the hook for price-gouging in the future. Additionally, the bill offers critical funding to states so they can make sure families struggling to get by have access to quality and affordable health care. These are commonsense policies – if Trump and Republicans in Congress want to show they are serious about taking on this crisis, they’ll include them in the COVID-19 relief package currently being negotiated.”
The bill, the Vaccine And Coverage Certainty (VACC) Act, creates an inflation rebate for Medicare and Medicaid based on the negotiated price between the federal government and pharmaceutical companies currently developing a vaccine for COVID-19. The government has struck such deals with companies like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer. While it would be preferable for the government to continue buying vaccine doses at the negotiated price until the COVID-19 pandemic is completely over, this policy acts as a backstop in the event that the federal government chooses not to purchase doses beyond the initial deal, which would allow drug companies to charge whatever they want.
The bill also provides additional enhanced federal Medicaid funding for states that expanded Medicaid coverage after 2014 or choose to expand in the future, ensures Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants have access to Medicaid, and protects working Americans who are experiencing job and health insurance instability during the pandemic and associated economic downturn from unfair tax treatment. These provisions are priorities for Senate Democrats seeking to make the health care system more equitable for all Americans.
Legislative text for the VACC Act can be found here.