President Joe Biden promoted the parts of his massive social-spending bill that are designed to curb drug prices in a White House speech on Monday, as top Democrats are pushing to pass the legislation by Christmas.
The Build Back Better plan is designed to lower prescription drug
costs by letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, capping how much seniors pay for drugs and also lowering insulin prices. Costs for that widely used drug would be capped at $35 a month.
“We can agree that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive in this country,” Biden said in remarks following meetings with families that have struggled with insulin costs. “Under my Build Back Better bill, which has passed the House of Representatives, it won’t be the same way,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has said he wants to pass the roughly $2 trillion bill before the Christmas holiday — though the measure remains the subject of fierce debate even among Democrats. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona haven’t committed to passing it, and Democratic aides are reportedly saying passage is more likely in January.
Meanwhile, it is unclear if the drug-pricing proposals will clear Senate rules. Democrats are using a process known as reconciliation — which is reserved for legislation affecting the federal budget — to move the bill. The Senate’s parliamentarian was reportedly set to meet with leaders on Monday to review health provisions.
The bill features an annual cap of $2,000 on out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare recipients.
Pressing lawmakers to “finish the job” on the Build Back Better plan, Biden said diseases like diabetes or cancer “don’t care whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”
“This is not a partisan issue,” he said.
The Build Back Better plan passed the House on Nov. 19. Besides the drug-pricing changes, the package would create universal preschool, extend more-expansive Affordable Care Act subsidies, fund clean-energy programs and provide tax credits for electric vehicles. It would be paid for by a new corporate minimum tax and raising taxes on high-income Americans.