Biden Cracks The Whip On Congress And Targets Lower Prescription Drug Prices

With infrastructure almost finished, President Biden has turned his attention to urging Congress to lower prescription drug prices.

President Biden Unveils Plan For Lower Prescription Drug Prices

According to a White House Fact Sheet provided to PoliticusUSA:

President Biden believes that health care is a right, not a privilege. No American should have to face difficult choices between paying for their prescription medications or other essential needs. And yet, too many Americans face this exact challenge. On average, Americans pay two to three times as much as people in other countries for prescription drugs, and one in four Americans who take prescription drugs struggle to afford their medications. Pharmaceutical companies do ground-breaking, life-saving work, but there is a difference between developing clinical breakthroughs and driving up prices for the drugs Americans rely on. Change is sorely needed.
Today, President Biden is laying out his vision for reducing the high cost of prescription drugs. As part of his Build Back Better agenda, he’s calling on Congress to address this crisis and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, significantly reducing costs for millions of Americans.

Specifically, the President’s plan includes:

  • Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices.
    For every other type of health care service, Medicare works to get the best prices for American seniors. But for prescription drugs – and only prescription drugs – Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating for the best deal.  This needs to change.  Medicare should be able to negotiate the price for a subset of expensive drugs that don’t face any competition in the market.  Medicare negotiators would be provided a framework for what constitutes a fair price for each drug, and there should be powerful incentives to make sure drug companies agree to a reasonable price.
  • Making Other Needed Reforms to Lower Prices. 
    We need to put an end to drug prices rising higher and higher with no end in sight. Drug companies that raise their prices faster than inflation should have to pay a penalty. Furthermore, today, seniors who take expensive drugs can face unlimited exposure to high drug prices. We have to fix this, and establish a firm cap on the amount that Medicare beneficiaries have to pay out-of-pocket for drugs each year.
  • Building on Existing Progress to Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs.
    These actions would build upon steps the President has taken to make prescription drugs more affordable for all Americans. Last month, President Biden signed an executive order calling upon each Agency to improve competition, increase wages, and reduce prices—including for prescription drugs. Alongside other steps, the federal government will be working with states and Tribes to import safe, lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and accelerating the development and uptake of generic and biosimilar drugs that give patients the same exact clinical benefit but at a fraction of the price.

These reforms would lower premiums and copays for millions of Americans.  Insulin prices could fall by hundreds of dollars on average.   The price for some arthritis medicines might fall by more than $2,000 every month.  And for some of the most expensive drugs, prices would fall by tens of thousands of dollars per year.  These price savings would put money back in seniors’ pockets: a person taking an expensive cancer drug could see their out of pocket costs fall by at least $9,000 a year, and even seniors who don’t take expensive drugs could see their premiums cut.  On average, Medicare beneficiaries would save about $200.

And it’s not just Medicare beneficiaries that would benefit.  If Medicare makes the prices it negotiates available to commercial payers, too, costs for employer health insurance would fall – reducing premiums by tens of billions of dollars or more.

Biden Could Have Been Satisified With A Historic Infrastructure Deal, But He Wants More

President Biden isn’t satisfied with what looks like a historic two-part infrastructure plan. One of the major defining characteristics of the Biden presidency is that he is always pushing. The President wants to get more done for the American people.

After a previous administration where the president had no agenda and didn’t lead, President Biden has guided Congress through his priorities.

September and October will be dedicated to voting rights, but President Biden has moved lowering prescription drug costs up the list of legislative priorities.