President Joe Biden used Tuesday’s State of the Union address to call on Congress to cap the price of insulin for every American who takes the drug.
Biden’s climate change and health care law, passed over unanimous Republican opposition, set a price of $35 a month for Medicare recipients, but Senate Republicans blocked an effort to extend the cap to everyone, including what he said was 200,000 young people with Type I diabetes.
“Let’s finish the job this time,” Biden said.
House Republicans quickly lined up against the proposal, however.
“It’s time for the president to abandon his socialist price-schemes and work across the aisle to make insulin products more affordable without jeopardizing insulin competition and innovation,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy Rodgers, R-Wash.
Biden criticized the pharmaceutical industry, which has a big presence in New Jersey, for “unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars —and making record profits” for insulin and other drugs. The new law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, also allows the federal government to negotiate over drug prices for Medicare, limits Medicare drug price hikes to the rate of inflation, and caps annual out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000.
Around 77,000 New Jerseyans receiving Medicare used insulin in 2020, and 45,540 New Jerseyans have more than $2,000 a month in drug costs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“We’re taking on powerful interests to bring your health care costs down so you can sleep better at night,” he said. “You know, we pay more for prescription drugs than any major country on Earth.”
The president and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Stephen J. Ubl, said research and development already was being affected under the new law, whose passage was a rare loss for the powerful drug industry trade group.
“The government price-setting provisions in the law are forcing companies to make difficult choices, including shifting focus away from certain types of medicines and discouraging the research that takes place after medicines are first approved – threatening the very research that remains critical to improving outcomes for cancer and other diseases,” Ubl said.
The drug industry supported 305,258 jobs in the Garden State in 2019, second only to California, and pumped $83.4 billion into the state’s economy, according to Phrma.
Biden defended the provisions in the law.
“Bringing down prescription drug costs doesn’t just save seniors money. It will cut the federal deficit, saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars on the prescription drugs the government buys for Medicare,” he said.
While House Republicans have called for repealing the law, Biden promised to block any effort to do so.
“Make no mistake,” Biden said, “if you try to do anything to raise the cost of prescription drugs, I will veto it.”
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Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at @JDSalant.