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March 16, 2023

In Nevada speech, President Joe Biden urges cheaper prescription drugs, says 'more coming'

NEW BestSellersPresident Joe Biden touted his plan to lower prescription drug costs in Nevada ahead of new federal rebates, promising "there's a lot more coming."

In a familiar refrain, Biden called for expanding Medicare's authority to negotiate out-of-pocket drug costs, including a $2 monthly cap on certain generic drugs used to treat chronic conditions and a $35 price cap on insulin, the White House said.

The plan also allows for free vaccines for Medicare recipients and decreases costs for behavioral and mental health services.

"It makes a difference in people's lives what we're doing and what all you people are supporting," Biden said. "All American's deserve peace of mind that -- if illness strikes -- they can afford the care they need."

Last week, Biden unveiled his 2024 federal budget proposal, which calls on Congress to extend Medicare and Social Security and reduce the federal deficit by raising taxes on wealthy Americans.

Savings from the Biden reforms would pour an additional $200 billion into Medicare's Hospital Insurance Trust Fund over the next decade and help keep the programs solvent for at least the next 25 years, the White House said previously.

Biden's plan also would add commercial health insurers to a requirement that forces drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare whenever medicine prices rise faster than inflation.

Rebates for drugs administered by physicians under Medicare Part B went into effect Jan. 1.

David Berman -- an elderly Nevada resident who introduced the president -- said he has been a Type-2 diabetic for decades and his prescription insulin costs were cut by 50% beginning in January.

Biden said that, if the Inflation Reduction Act had been in place in 2020, about 11,000 seniors in Nevada would have saved an average of $439 on insulin, citing data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Inflation Reduction Act also requires that drug companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation must pay the difference to Medicare, Biden said.

"Yesterday I learned that last quarter drug companies hiked the cost of 27 drugs that are on the market above the new limit," he said. "Now those manufacturers are going to have to pay the difference back to Medicare. As a result, the Department of Health and Humans Services estimates that this will make co-pays for those drugs as much as $390 cheaper for seniors."

Biden said about 100,000 people in Nevada receive healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. He warns that Republicans will continue to make attempts to amend or repeal the act after trying and failing 50 times in Congress. He emphasized that the act is especially significant for people with pre-existing conditions, guaranteeing them healthcare.

Along with the savings for consumers, Biden touted the savings for the government.

"If you limit the amount of money that can be charged to reasonable prices by the drug companies, you know how much you'll save this year -- $160 billion," Biden said. "It's not only the right thing to do, it is a conservative thing to do in terms of cutting the federal budget."

"Look, I'm a capitalist. If you go out and make a lot of money -- just pay your fair share," he added. "I have no problem with companies making reasonable profits, but, my lord, not on the backs of working families and seniors."

Biden jokingly said his policies on healthcare are a lot more popular than he is. He remarked that many seniors have been hesitant to believe cuts to medication costs were real until they saw the results themselves.

"There's a lot more coming," he said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the first set of prescription drugs that will be subject to the rebates, meaning a lower co-pay -- beginning in April -- for about 27 prescription drugs whose prices rose sharply in the final quarter of 2022.

By comparison, 1,200 prescription drugs increased their prices faster than inflation throughout 2021 before Biden's policies went into effect, the White House said.

Later this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will release federal guidelines on how select drug costs will be negotiated moving forward, setting the stage for Medicare to start the bargaining later this year.

The president's visit to Nevada also comes amid new federal data that show the Inflation Reduction Act has worked to bring down overall healthcare costs since being signed into law last August, the White House said.

The administration also released a report claiming Biden's Inflation Reduction Act would have saved Medicare recipients about $234 million in out-of-pocket costs over the previous year.

In one extreme example of high costs, some Americans were paying nearly $200 for the shingles vaccine in 2021, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a Tuesday press call to preview the president's Nevada visit.

"Not anymore," he said, giving credit to Biden's prescription drug law.

Susan Rice, director of White House domestic policy, accused Republicans of wanting to gut the health programs to give a boost to Big Pharma.

"Congressional Republicans have introduced legislation to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act," she said. "That means millions of Americans would pay higher health insurance premiums and higher taxes, millions of Americans would pay higher drug prices and insulin prices and millions of seniors would be unable to get recommended vaccines for free and billions of dollars would go back into the pockets of Big Pharma, all while increasing the deficit."

Several pharmaceutical companies have heeded Biden's call to lower costs.

Earlier this month, Eli Lilly said it was cutting the price of its insulin and capping the out-of-pocket cost for the diabetes treatment at $35 per month. On Tuesday, drugmaker Novo Nordisk announced a plan to cut the price of its insulin by 75%.

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