Xavier Becerra

Did landmark laws from Congress enable high drug prices?

Lawmakers are venting outrage over high prescription drug costs, but lawmakers and presidents of both parties may have set the stage for the startling prices that have consumers on edge.

As the proverb says: Physician, heal thyself.

In the last 13 years, Congress passed major legislation that expanded taxpayer-financed coverage for prescription drugs but lacked explicit mechanisms for dealing with costs, instead relying mainly on market forces. Lawmakers look like unwitting enablers in the eyes of some experts.

Congress "inadvertently created a situation where price increases are much more rapid," said economist Paul Ginsburg, a Medicare expert who directs...