President Biden, citing the "outrageously expensive" cost of insulin and other prescription drugs in the U.S., called on Congress Monday to pass his Build Back Better bill, which contains provisions to lower drug prices.
In brief remarks at the White House, the president pointed to the cost of insulin needed to treat Type 1 diabetes, which Biden says affects some 1.5 million Americans, who pay anywhere from $375 to $1,000 per month for the drug. The House-passed measure would cap insulin prices at $35 per month.
"I think it's safe to say that all of us, all of us, whatever our age, wherever we live, we can agree that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive in this country," Biden said, adding, "Shame on us as a nation if we can't do better than this."
Biden's plan would also allow Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices with manufacturers, something now prohibited, and it would cap out-of-pocket costs for some prescription drugs for Medicare recipients at $2,000 a year.
Biden said he wants congressional approval of the roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better Act "as early as we can get it."
"I want to get it done, no matter how long it takes," he told reporters.
A Christmas deadline may be tough to meet
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said in a Monday letter to senators that his goal is to have the measure approved by Christmas. That deadline may be hard to meet. The Senate's parliamentarian is still reviewing parts of the bill for compliance with the so-called Byrd rule, which restricts what the measure can contain. The Senate is slated to leave town for its Christmas break at the end of this week, though that's likely to get pushed back.
And it's unclear what changes some Democrats, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, will demand for their support of the measure, which will require the votes of all 50 Senate Democrats for passage.
Before his remarks, Biden met with two women suffering from diabetes. The president said one of them, Sa'Ra Skipper, told him "that affording insulin has been the challenge of her and her family's entire life," and that "sometimes she and her sister rationed doses."
"Health care should be a right, not a privilege in this country," Biden said. "This is not a partisan issue."
The pharmaceutical industry, which opposes the Build Back Better Act, responded to Biden's remarks. In a statement, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that a "damaging bill jammed through a partisan process will not provide patients struggling to afford their medicines meaningful relief."