Biden calls on Congress to pass drug pricing legislation this year
President Biden on Wednesday called for Congress to pass legislation this year that would lower prescription drug prices, seeking to accomplish a long-held Democratic goal.
“Let’s do what we’ve always talked about for all the years I was down here in this body in Congress,” Biden said in his first joint address to Congress. “Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices.”
“Let’s get it done this year,” he added.
However, Biden notably did not include a drug pricing component in his American Families Plan unveiled earlier Wednesday, a major legislative package with proposals on paid leave and child care. The absence of a drug pricing plan, despite pressure from congressional Democrats to include one, has raised questions about Biden’s commitment to moving forward on the legislation.
Still, Biden made forceful remarks in Wednesday’s speech, while presenting health care as a separate topic from the Families Plan.
He even added in a line that was not in his prepared remarks, pointing out that former President Trump also supported Medicare negotiating drug prices, in a break from most Republicans, before later backing off the idea.
“We know how to do this,” Biden said. “The last president had that as an objective. We all know how outrageously expensive drugs are in America.”
In addition, Biden called for using the savings from drug pricing legislation, which could be as much as $500 billion over 10 years, “to strengthen the Affordable Care Act – expand Medicare coverage and benefits – without costing taxpayers an additional penny.”
Democrats in Congress have been pushing for lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55 or 60, and expanding Medicare benefits to include vision, hearing and dental.
While Biden presented health care as separate from the Families Plan, Democrats in Congress who view the drug pricing measure as a major priority could add it when the package makes its way through the House and Senate.
“It’s critical that we level the playing field by giving the federal government the ability to negotiate lower prescription drug costs, and this will be one of my top priorities as we work to pass the American Families Plan,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said earlier Wednesday.