The failure of the Build Back Better framework to include a plan to lower prescription drug prices, expand Medicare and provide added support for family caregivers is an outrage that older Americans will not support, AARP Chief Executive Officer Jo Ann Jenkins said October 28 as she vowed to continue the fight to convince Congress to include measures to address those urgent issues.
"We are outraged that the initial framework released by the White House today does not lower prescription drug prices, expand Medicare benefits or help family caregivers," Jenkins said in an afternoon press call. "It would be a monumental mistake for Congress not to act on this historic opportunity to improve the lives of virtually every American family."
Tell Congress it’s time to let Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices
President Joe Biden addressed the nation Oct. 28, saying that there is a framework for his Build Back Better legislation, one of two bills seen together as the keystone of his presidency so far. The other is a major infrastructure measure. The bills do not include drug-price reform.
It does include some Medicare coverage of hearing but not dental or vision.
For months, AARP has been urging the administration and congressional leaders to include a requirement for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, as well as put an annual cap on out-of-pocket Medicare Part D prescription drug expenses and penalize drug companies that raise prices higher than inflation.
An AARP public opinion survey found that 87 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans support allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world, and many consumers consistently say they cannot afford their medications and either skip doses or cut their pills in half as they have to balance taking their drugs and paying for other necessities, such as rent and food.
“Overwhelming majorities want Congress to pass legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and put a cap on out-of-pocket costs that older adults pay," Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said in an October 28 statement.
"Americans are fed up with promises that have not been kept," LeaMond adds. "Voters 50-plus are a major force in every election and they expect the president and Congress to keep their promises and let Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices. They need to include these provisions in the package before they can expect seniors to support it.”
Dena Bunis covers Medicare, health care, health policy and Congress. She also writes the “Medicare Made Easy” column for the AARP Bulletin. An award-winning journalist, Bunis spent decades working for metropolitan daily newspapers, including as Washington bureau chief for the Orange County Register and as a health policy and workplace writer for Newsday.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information.
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