Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
President Joe Biden during a speech at UNLV Wednesday touted recent legislative victories seeking to rein in prescription drug prices and vowed to build on efforts to reduce health costs
Biden’s visit to Southern Nevada came a week after he unveiled his 2024 fiscal year budget, which includes numerous health care proposals, like expanding Medicare’s authority to negotiate drug prices sooner.
The administration is hoping to build upon the last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, which put limits on insulin costs and out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare recipients, among other provisions
“America spends more on prescription drugs than any advanced nation on Earth,” Biden said. “You name the drug you have to take, and I can take you to France and get it to you a hell of a lot cheaper. It’s not fair.”
However, his proposed 2024 fiscal budget will face opposition in the House, where Republicans hold a slim majority and have vowed to bring significant budget cuts.
Biden countered that his budget proposal, along with ongoing efforts to reduce health care costs, will “take steps to lift the burden on seniors and hard-working Americans.”
Health care costs, he said, remain a top concern for many Americans.
“The truth is, too many folks lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering what they would do if something happened, if their spouse got a serious illness, if they got sick, if their child got sick,” Biden said.
Under the Inflation Reduction Act, insulin costs for Medicare recipients was capped at $35 a month.That provision went into effect in January.
David Berman, a Las Vegas resident who introduced Biden, is one of the people already noticing the difference.
Berman, who uses multiple injectable insulin pens throughout the day to manage his Type-2 diabetes, said his monthly insulin costs dropped 50%.
“I know countless Americans saw their costs drop even more,” he said. “That’s real money in their pocketbooks. Money that comes in handy on a fixed income.”
While the law only caps the costs for Medicare recipients, drug makers have recently announced they are independently following suit.
“The good news is that Eli Lilly, the biggest insulin maker in the United States of America, announced that they’re going to answer my call and they’re going to make insulin available to everyone in America for $35,” Biden said. “And, yesterday, (Novo Nordisk), another drugmaker, announced they’re cutting their price of insulin as well.”
It’s not the only provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that will lead to cost savings, Biden said.
Because of the law, seniors on Medicare can access common vaccines, including Tetanus and shingles, for free.
Ahead of his speech, the White House released a report that showed Nevada has 23,739 enrollees of Medicare Part D, and they spend about $1.8 million in 2021 on recommended vaccines.
“If our plan would have been in place in 2021, 3.4 million seniors, including 24,000 Nevada seniors, would’ve saved an average of $70,” said Biden.
The White House estimated that would have been $234 million in total savings.
Other provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act are still being implemented.
The law also will limit out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare prescription drugs at $2,000 annually beginning in 2025 and requires prescription drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they raise prices faster than inflation.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday a list of 27 prescription drugs that will be subjected to Medicare inflation rebates starting in April.
Starting in 2026, the law will allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices. A list of the first drugs included is expected to be released this fall.
Following the speech, progressive groups applauded Biden’s accomplishments around prescription drug costs.
Annette Magnus, the executive director of Battle Born Progress, said the work isn’t done yet.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to have a president willing to stand up for the American worker against Big Pharma, but we need Congress to act,” she said in a statement. “Additionally, we hope Gov. Joe Lombardo and the Nevada Legislature pay close attention to the president’s remarks today, and do what is in their own power to lower costs for Nevadans struggling to afford their life-saving prescriptions.”
Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.