In 2004, then-Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., positioned herself as a conservative, common-sense Democrat focused on cost-cutting measures like allowing Medicare to use its size and scale to negotiate lower prescription costs collectively. She won her reelection bid a few days later. However, during the 2010 congressional midterm elections, Lincoln was swept out of office six years later, thanks to an influx of dark money from drug companies. Lincoln is now a lobbyist for Pfizer, working to stop the very cost-cutting initiative she once championed.
“We tried desperately to allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services] to negotiate, using all 42 million seniors as a negotiating tool, to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals,” said Lincoln, staring down her Republican opponent during a televised debate. “And we weren’t allowed to do that. At least two times I voted on that amendment.”
President Joe Biden’s domestic plan now includes a popular, previously bipartisan idea to keep Medicare costs down. According to administration-backed legislation, Medicare should be able to negotiate for lower-cost medicine through the Part D program, just like other government agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs.