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President’s SOTU Speech Brims With Common Sense and Optimism–Now Congress Must Act

By March 8, 2024No Comments

More than 6 in 10 Americans who watched President Biden’s State of the Union speech had a positive reaction to the President’s remarks and with reason: President Biden communicated plainly and succinctly about what his administration has accomplished, what plans he has for tackling today’s toughest issues and what we’re going to as a nation to build on our best legacies. Certainly chief among these is the tremendous gains we’ve made in every area of healthcare except for reproductive health, where anti-abortion extremists have turned back the clock fifty years. 

The President celebrated recent actions to lower the price of Affordable Care Act coverage that has led to record low uninsured rates and Medicare reforms that are lowering prescription drug costs for seniors and people with disabilities with good reason. For two decades, politicians of all stripes have been promising to rein in Big Pharma price-gouging and make medicines affordable–including Biden’s predecessor who promised to make drug corporations “negotiate like crazy” but then reversed course. 

Instead it was President Biden who delivered on the promise of more affordable medicines and on holding drug corporations accountable for price-gouging and raising prices faster than inflation year after year. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that Democrats passed without one single Republican vote and that President Biden signed into law will lower prices on some of the most expensive medicines in Medicare by requiring negotiated prices rather than letting drug corporations decide alone. Not only did the President tout this provision, he actually proposed that Congress expand it to include many more drugs–up to 500 drugs in Medicare. He also urged that the lower negotiated prices be extended to millions of people with other kinds of coverage.

That’s a great idea since polls reveal that people of all ages, not just seniors in Medicare, struggle to afford prescriptions. Two thirds of American adults take at least one prescription and one in three can’t afford their medicines because of the high cost of prescriptions. The expanded reforms that President Biden proposed would go a long way toward ensuring that millions more Americans have access to the medicines they need to take care of themselves and their families. 

Even those who don’t take prescriptions would benefit since prescription drug prices contribute to overall healthcare costs for employers, patients and taxpayers. For example, the Medicare negotiations provisions in the IRA will save Medicare, a taxpayer funded program, nearly $100 billion over ten years. The provisions that penalize drug corporations for raising rates faster than inflation save another $101 billion over this period. This is savings on top of what individual patients save on prices and out of pocket costs thanks to the new law. 

People with all kinds of insurance, of all ages and incomes deserve the same opportunity for savings. Americans pay 2 to 3 times more for brand name drugs than people in other countries pay for the exact same drug, driving up premiums and putting higher burdens on US consumers who need treatments for everything from diabetes and heart disease and more complex conditions like cancer and mental health disorders. In our country, even people with insurance worry incessantly that they won’t be able to afford treatments they need, that their insurance won’t cover the full cost, that they will incur debt or that they will have to forgo treatment. Putting the President’s plan to make ACA coverage more affordable permanently and to expand prescription drug reforms to cover millions more people would provide the peace of mind we all deserve when it comes to our health. 

But, as the President also noted, that peace of mind won’t be complete until people have not just the coverage and affordability we need, but also the right to make their own health care decisions about reproduction and when to start a family. 

The President called on Congress to restore the right to abortion because the decision about when and if to have a child is fundamentally about having the power to control our own bodies and destinies. And he couldn’t be more right: denying women the right to decide for themselves whether to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy has dire health and economic consequences that can last a lifetime. The President has provided a path forward with wisdom, encouragement and optimism that America can succeed, as we always have in the past, in making progress. It’s time for Congress to take it.