Fact Checker: Did Grassley Take $1.4 Million From The Pharma Industry?

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, retired Navy Admiral Mike Franken, addresses supporters June 7 at an Iowa primary comeback watch party in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

After portraying himself as a unifier with rural and military roots he said would help him woo voters across the aisle, Democrat Mike Franken accused Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of to be “all hats, no cattle” on health care.

Just a month into his U.S. Senate nomination after an upset victory over Abby Finkenauer in the Democratic primary, the retired Navy admiral has shot the longtime senator twice.

“After more than 40 years in the Senate, Grassley now wants us to believe that he is in favor of cutting prescription drug costs,” Franken said in a July 12 press release.

He said decades after drafting a bill banning Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices, Grassley still doesn’t support the idea. Franken also claims that Grassley has taken millions from the pharmaceutical industry in the meantime.

Was Franken correct in making these claims?

To claim: “…(Grassley) helped draft the bill prohibiting Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices – a policy he still refuses to support.”

The bill in question is the Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003, sponsored by Grassley alongside three Republicans and a Democrat. It passed both houses of Congress with a considerable bipartisan margin and was signed by President George W. Bush as the biggest overhaul of Medicare since the program’s inception in 1965.

From 1990 to 2000, prescription spending grew twice as fast as other health spending. In response to rising drug costs, private plans that retirees depended on for prescription coverage began to shrink, leaving 25% of Medicare beneficiaries without any prescription coverage, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The new law created Medicare Part D, implemented in 2006, to cover the “donut hole” of prescription drug costs.

But the new law also directly prohibited Medicare from attempting to negotiate prescription drug prices with drug companies. Only private insurance companies administering Medicare Part D have the right to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers.

The side effects of that are something the Affordable Care Act attempted to address, but the drug negotiations remain a sticking point for liberals and progressives advocating for a more substantial overhaul of the healthcare system. He remains the linchpin of President Joe Biden’s health care agenda.

Now that we know Grassley helped draft the bill, let’s see if he still sticks to it.

In January 2019, Grassley told reporters that he would pursue legislation to reduce drug prices, but would not pursue a Democratic proposal allowing the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

“I don’t want the government to negotiate prices with the private sector,” he said.

A May 2019 speech, still available on his website, reiterated his opposition to repealing the non-interference clause in Medicare Part D to allow “the forces of free enterprise and competition to drive down costs and increase the value”.

“It would not work if the federal government intervened in the delivery of drugs and dictated which drugs would and would not be covered,” he explained on the floor of the Senate. “That’s why we wrote a non-interference clause into the law.”

A January Congressional Budget Office report noted that from 2009 to 2018, the average net price of brand name prescriptions rose from $149 to $353 for Medicare Part D patients, but from $147 to $218 for patients Medicaid – a program for the poor and disabled the government is allowed to negotiate.

Earlier this year, Grassley introduced a new bill to tackle rising drug costs through price transparency with greater accountability for drug benefit managers – the Benefit Manager Transparency Act of 2022. pharmaceuticals.

Note: Grassley has outlined his reasons for objecting to Medicare negotiating directly, but Franken is correct in making this assertion regardless. We give it an A for that claim.

To claim: “Since he arrived in Washington more than 40 years ago, he has taken almost $1.4 million from the pharmaceutical industry…”

In support of this assertion, Franken’s team cited figures from OpenSecrets, a nonprofit created by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics whose research compiles data on money in politics.

In July, figures from Franken’s team showed Grassley’s campaign received $421,993 from drug companies and $960,237 from the pharmaceutical and health products industry, for a total of $1,382,230. dollars since 1989.

Since then, the nonprofit’s database numbers for Grassley have increased. The first category now stands at $425,394; the latter rose to $971,062. That brings the total to $1,396,456.

Since the 1990 election cycle, Republican candidates have received an average of 64% of political contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. But last year, major pharma political spenders like Pfizer and Merck contributed slightly more to Democrats.

Rating: A


The Fact Checker team verifies statements made by an Iowa political candidate or public official or national candidate/leader about Iowa, or in advocacy advertisements that appear in our marketplace.

Claims must be independently verifiable.

We assign statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim that you think needs checking, email us at [email protected]

The members of the Fact Checker team are Elijah Decious, Erin Jordan and Marissa Payne. This fact checker was researched and written by Elijah Decious.

Virginia C. Taylor