The Trump administration announced a preliminary plan to make it easier for Americans to buy imported cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are teaming up to grant drugmakers the right to import cheaper drugs that they offer in foreign countries.

The two pathways would allow states and companies to test drug-importing programs in the coming months. States would have to provide a proposal for safe drug importation and submit it for federal approval, while companies would also have to submit a plan for approval.

"For the first time in HHS’ history, we are open to importation," Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, told reporters.

The cost of healthcare and pharmaceutical drugs are becoming major topics ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. Reports show that 47% of Americans take at least one pharmaceutical drug and 79 million Americans have problems paying medical bills or have debt due to the high cost of care. Americans pay the most for prescription drugs in the world.

A 2019 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 79% of Americans in a sample group believe that the cost of prescription drugs is "unreasonable."

Trump has attempted to force pharmaceutical companies to advertise the prices of their drugs on commercials but the idea was struck down by a federal court. 

With Democratic presidential candidates such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont urging reforms to lower the cost of healthcare, Trump might be pushing these rules as a way to preemptively shield himself from criticism by Democrats that his administration hasn't done enough to tackle voters' concerns on the healthcare issue.  

To illustrate the high drug costs, Sanders recently took a group of Americans to Canada, where they were able to purchase insulin for much cheaper prices than in the U.S. 

Pharma companies are likely to resist the move, as it hurts their bottom line.

"There is no way to guarantee the safety of drugs that come into the United States," said CEO Stephen Ubi of the lobbyist group PhRMA.

"There are hurdles of course but the hurdles now are known. They are being laid out and are surmountable," said Azar.

Trump said on the 2016 campaign trail that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which would kick roughly 24 million Americans off their insurance over the next 10 years. In February 2018, Republican lawmakers and Trump essentially gave up on their years-long dream of repealing ACA, though Trump attempted to restart efforts to kill it in March 2019 by backing a lawsuit that argues it is unconstitutional.

Trump has also vowed "insurance for everybody" but has yet to announce a plan.