Biden Travels to Virginia to Talk Health Care
CULPEPER COUNTY, Va. — President Joe Biden traveled to Culpeper County, Virginia, Thursday delivering remarks intended to revive provisions of his now moribund Build Back Better agenda related to lowering health care costs and, particularly, prescription drug prices.
Mindful of a Labor Department report Thursday that found consumer prices jumped 7.5% last month — the steepest jump in 40 years — Biden said, “Just a little bit more breathing room makes a gigantic difference.”
During his remarks, Biden said he would take steps to cap co-pays for prescription drugs and impose a “steep tax” on drug companies that raise their prices faster than the rate of inflation once the price is set.
He also said the administration will work to enforce discounts on prescription drugs for rural clinics and community health centers, and bring even more clarity and fewer surprises for those who are hospitalized.
Biden said this could all be done through the Build Back Better legislation, which passed the House last year but has stalled in the Senate.
Undeterred, Biden said his message to the big pharmaceutical companies is clear.
“You are finally going to become accountable when you raise prices on the American people,” he said.
According to the White House, one in four Americans who need prescription drugs struggle to afford them, and over the past decade health care costs have gone up about 50%.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra accompanied the president to Culpeper County, and his remarks focused mainly on how the American Rescue Plan — the COVID-19 stimulus package passed last March — benefitted American consumers.
According to Becerra, about four in five people who recently signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov were able to find a plan where they pay less than $10 per month in premiums.
“Now that’s a good deal,” said Becerra.
What’s not a good deal, Becerra said, is that on average insured Americans still pay about $1,500 per person a year on prescription medications.
For months, the Build Back Better plan has appeared to be in the hands of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who announced in December 2021 that he couldn’t support the costly package passed in the House.
In the weeks since, there has been talk on Capitol Hill of a “slimmed down” version of Build Back Better, or a rolling out of its provisions individually, but actual progress on that front has been slow.
And as recently as last week, Manchin told reporters the bill is “dead.”
Biden appeared alongside Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who may be in danger of losing her seat representing a central Virginia district.
Spanberger told the Associated Press that she welcomes any effort to lower prescription drug prices and told reporters that the effort was about a broader attempt to reduce inflation.
“That’s part and parcel of what we’re here talking about, right?” she said. “So when you’re worried about the gas pump or you’re worried about the cost of chicken in the grocery store, and your child is diabetic — all those things become impactful.”
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