President Joe Biden will highlight the marked differences in the way Democrats are dealing with skyrocketing drug prices compared to their Republican counterparts as he prepares for an expected reelection announcement.
In a speech Wednesday in Las Vegas that could serve as a preview of the upcoming campaign, Biden planned to put the issue of cutting drug costs at the heart of his political and political agenda.
The White House believes it has a compelling message by unveiling legislation passed last year aimed at saving taxpayers billions of dollars and reducing the cost of medications for the approximately 84 million Americans who rely on Medicare.
“That kind of savings will give people a little bit more breathing space, more convenience when they decide to go to the grocery store to buy their groceries, more ways to pay their rent, or maybe just to get something to do decent things for their families. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, told reporters on Tuesday, anticipating the Democratic president’s remarks.
Biden plans to talk about how his administration will introduce several parts of this law, which was passed in a Democrat-controlled Congress last year, capping the price of insulin, making most vaccines free and allowing the federal government to negotiate deals on a handful of drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.
The federal government expects significant savings from these negotiations and to make money from a rule requiring drugmakers to send Medicare a check if they raise drug prices above inflation.
That will help strengthen the social safety net for older Americans, Biden told Democratic donors in Rancho Santa Fe, California, on Monday.
“Not only is it right for people, it cuts the deficit by $160 billion,” he said.
Already, legislation caps the price of insulin at $35 for disabled and elderly Americans who rely on Medicare.
Biden has proposed expanding that cap to all Americans, but that plan faces an uphill battle. Efforts to pass legislation capping the price of insulin for uninsured Americans or those with private insurance failed in the Democrat-controlled Congress last year.
However, Biden still campaigned for last year’s bill as a win for the millions of Americans who aren’t into Medicare. Drug companies, under public pressure after having tripled their prices for the life-saving drug over the past two decades, began voluntarily lowering the cost of insulin. Drugmaker Novo Nordisk on Tuesday announced it would cut the cost of insulin to about $72 a vial after rival Eli Lilly announced it would start selling its $25 generic.
“This builds on the important advances we made last year when I signed legislation to cap insulin for seniors at $35,” Biden said Tuesday in a statement accompanying Novo Nordisk’s announcement. “I call on all other manufacturers to follow suit, and on congressional Republicans to join us in capping insulin for all Americans at $35.”
Another part of the law the government hopes will have an impact on Americans is the requirement that drug companies pay Medicare a rebate if they increase the cost of drugs faster than inflation.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won’t bill drug companies until 2025, but the federal agency has already begun tracking drug prices. On Wednesday, CMS will identify 27 drugs whose prices were increased too quickly, a move that caps the price Medicare applicants have to pay for those drugs and that the administration hopes will motivate drugmakers to increase their costs reduce.
Biden has tried in recent weeks to draw a stark contrast between his party’s and Republicans’ handling of health care affordability, repeatedly raising concerns that the GOP will seek to reverse Medicare cost-cutting provisions or attempt to end the program to shorten.
Last week, Biden vowed to stave off Medicare’s financial challenges by instead raising the Medicare tax rate from 3.8% to 5% for people with annual incomes of $400,000 or more.
Republican leaders — who have publicly denied accusations that they will cut the program — have yet to band together around a plan to fix Medicare’s imminent deficits. Last year, the House Republican Study Committee proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters last week that Biden’s plan to increase taxes on Medicare “will not see the light of day.”
Seitz reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Chris Megerian in Washington contributed to this report.