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WASHINGTON — Alex Azar defended the drug pricing proposals in the Trump administration’s latest budget request Thursday, pushing back on criticism that none of the ideas would lower the list prices for prescription drugs.

The new health and human services secretary, when pressed on the matter by both a Democratic and a Republican senator at a budget hearing, pointed to two concrete proposals by the administration. Both take aim at Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. One would put insurers, rather than the federal government, on the hook for more of the cost; another aims to encourage insurance companies to push cheaper generic drugs instead of costly brand drugs to their patients.


It’s unclear whether those policies, which were among a raft of other ideas that take aim at pharmacy benefit managers and hospital prices, among other facets of the health system, would actually bring down list prices. Indeed, even the senators who asked Azar about the policies — Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — expressed skepticism after hearing his response.

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