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In State of the Union address, Biden to urge Congress to pass measures to lower health care costs

President Biden plans to urge Congress to focus on cost-saving ideas for prescription drugs in his State of the Union address Thursday night, including capping out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for all Americans and allowing the federal government to negotiate the prices of widely used medications.

These two proposals expand on actions taken in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which allowed Medicare for the first time to negotiate the price of 20 expensive drugs used by many Americans with diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. The federal government is negotiating this week with pharmaceutical companies on the prices of the first 10 drugs, and companies are expected to submit counteroffers soon.

Senior administration officials said the president’s proposal, if enacted, would expand this number to 50 prescription drugs that treat cancer, heart disease and diabetes. 

In his speech, the president is expected to call on Congress to extend the $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs — which is currently scheduled to go into effect for senior citizens in 2025 — to all Americans with private insurance.

Both ideas from Mr. Biden will require substantial congressional action at a time when Congress struggles with passing an annual budget. Congress also remains narrowly divided, and while the president is expected to call for bipartisanship to expand these health care savings, the Biden White House repeatedly notes that no Republican voted for the 2022 measure.

The administration officials were also unclear on how soon the additional drug savings costs could be implemented if passed by Congress. 

With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, these announcements are part of the president’s strategy to address voter concerns about the economy and his economic agenda. More Americans in a recent poll said they viewed the economy more positively under former President Donald Trump than under Mr. Biden, and almost 6 in 10 voters described the current economy as bad.

The Biden White House has seized on bringing down the cost of health care as one way to tackle these economic concerns.

“We truly believe the president’s work on health is a signature issue for us,” White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden said.

The White House also said the president on Thursday night is expected to tout his administration’s work on “surprise” costly medical bills from out-of-network providers and expanding health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. 

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