President Biden didn’t say much during his State of the Union address that would benefit older Americans in particular — there was no talk of Social Security or retirement security, and only one line about nursing homes — but what he did say about Medicare could make a world of difference to retirees if passed.
During his speech, Biden said Medicare should be able to negotiate for lower prices of prescription drugs — a proposal that would combat large pharmaceutical companies and drastically improve the spending of retirees.
Biden used insulin and Type 1 diabetes as an example of the harrowing effects of expensive prescription drugs. Although insulin costs $10 to make per vial, drug companies charge individuals up to 30 times that price, the president said during the State of the Union. He referred to a 13-year-old boy named Joshua, who was in attendance at the State of the Union address.
Although the example was focused on young Americans, it was a message about exorbitant prescription drug prices, and the struggle many Americans have to pay for them.
“Drug companies will still do very well,” the president said. “And while we’re at it, let Medicare negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, like the VA already does.” He said later on Medicare should set higher standards for nursing homes, so that residents and their loved ones get “the care they deserve and expect.”
This isn’t the first time there’s been a proposal for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but it might have been the first time it was mentioned in a State of the Union address, said Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.“We applaud him for mentioning Big Pharma in the State of the Union speech.”
The average 65-year-old couple retiring can expect to spend $300,000 in healthcare costs alone in retirement — not including the long-term care they may eventually need. But not everyone can afford to pay for their healthcare, and Medicare doesn’t cover all of the necessities, such as hearing, vision and dental. With inflation rising, some seniors are having to make difficult decisions about paying for their groceries or their medications.
The president spent the first few minutes of his speech talking about the war between Russia and Ukraine, followed by the lingering pandemic and the growth in the economy. He also touched on taxes, energy and infrastructure.
He also mentioned his Build Back Better proposal, which had included segments on combating prescription drug prices and offering hearing aids under Medicare, Richtman said. There’s more work to be done to help seniors and all Americans pay for their medications, but these points during the speech could be promising.
Whether it gets the bipartisan support it needs to become law is uncertain, but with so many senior voters and constituents, it is possible.
“Every member of Congress — Democrat, Republican or independent — has many seniors [in their congressional district or state] on Medicare, and I have done hundreds of town hall meetings with members of Congress over the years,” Richtman said. “The price of prescription drugs is top of everyone’s list.”