President Joe Biden is pushing Congress to lower the cost of prescription drugs, saying Thursday that the “prices have put the squeeze on too many families” in America.
Biden’s comments echo that of former President Donald Trump, who pushed for similar policies but couldn’t get Congress on board. The president said he wants Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices and called for giving out penalties if a drugmaker raises prices at an amount that exceeds inflation, NBC News reported.
“This isn’t a partisan issue. Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer — they don’t care whether you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Biden said during Thursday’s remarks. “This is another area where we can come together to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Drugmakers have pushed back on reducing prices, and Biden complained that “the price of many prescription drugs has dramatically outpaced inflation.” He touted his Build Back Better agenda, promising it will solve issues such as rising drug prices.
“To really solve the problem, we need Congress to act,” the president said. “That’s what my Build Back Better plan will do. There’s long been talk since I was back in the Senate about giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices. Medicare takes care of millions of people. Medicare, my plan is going to allow that.”
Biden noted that through his plan, the cost seniors spent on prescription drugs per year would be capped at a maximum of $3,000 a year. He also said prices negotiated by Medicare would also be open to those who have private company-based insurances.
Some lawmakers have pushed for allowing Medicare to negotiate for only the expensive drugs, but Biden wants the health insurance program to have free reign, NBC News noted.
“Congress is currently debating more narrow vision – letting Medicare negotiate some of the most expensive drugs, particularly from those companies that don’t face competition for that drug,” Biden pointed out. “We’re going to provide the competition through Medicare. Medicare is going to negotiate a fair price. Right now drug companies will set a price at whatever the market will bear.”
The president noted that he met with 12 companies back when he served as vice president. During the conversation, Biden asked what the companies would charge if they came up with a drug that cured a specific kind of cancer. The drug companies, Biden said, declared that they’d price it as “whatever the market would bear.”
“That often means a significant number of people can’t afford it under any circumstance,” the president said Thursday. “They’ll die without it. That’s unacceptable. What we’re proposing … will negotiate based on a fair price, one that reflects the costs of the research and development and the need for providing for a significant profit, that’s still affordable for consumers.”
The partisan $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill – which some Democrats want in tandem with the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill – includes addressing the cost of prescription drugs. The reconciliation bill has sparked backlash among Republicans, and even some Democrats have expressed concern over its high price tag. (RELATED: Sen. Manchin Warns Of ‘Grave Consequences’ From ‘Irresponsible’ $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan)