Joe Biden

Remarks on Efforts To Reduce Prescription Drug Costs in Irvine, California

October 14, 2022

The President. Well, thank you. Well, I'm—great to be here in Orange County, at Irvine Valley College. And, Susan, thank you for that introduction. Please sit down—please—thank you—if you have a seat. [Laughter]

Audience member. Love you, Joe!

The President. And I—well, thank you so much.

Look, unfortunately, the story Susan told is not unique. And it's—you know many, many families that are going through this.

Situation in Iran

But before I begin—the point of my discussion today, I know—I look over there, and I see "Free Iran." And I want you to know we stand with the citizens and brave women of Iran, for real—for real— and who right now are demonstrating to secure their very basic, fundamental rights.

Women and men should have the right—the right—to freedom of expression and assembly. And women—women all over the world—are being persecuted in various ways. But they should be able to wear, in God's name, what they want to wear. No one should be telling them what to wear.

And Iran has to end the violence against its own citizens simply exercising their fundamental rights. And you know, Masha [Mahsa]* Amini's death was—I've been in—doing foreign policy a long, long time. It stunned me what it awakened in Iran. And it's awakened something that I don't think will be quieted in a long, long time.

And so I want to thank you all for speaking out. I want to thank the Persian community here for being so vocal. And continue. It matters.

Audience member. Protect my freedom!

The President. That's one thing you don't have to tell me. [Laughter] You met my wife? [Laughter] I married up.

I was one of those guys that, my whole life, I've been surrounded by women who've taken care of me, maybe they're smarter than I am. My younger sister used to be 3 years younger than me. Now she's 23 years younger. [Laughter] There was not a single, solitary Biden man that is as old—younger than any Biden woman.

And my wife, by the way—we're at a community college—my wife is teaching today. My wife is a fulltime college professor at a community college.

Prescription Drug Costs

And look, I'm here today because I want to share the progress we're making to bring down the cost—health care costs for everybody. And thanks to the Democrats in Congress, like Lou and also Katie—and Katie is—you know, Katie has just been a star. You can tell she's not passionate about much. [Laughter] And you can tell she's a retiring soul.

But all kidding aside, you know, a policy whiz who knows how to talk to folks, a fighter who's taken on the powerful special interests. And we've seen it all. No drug company executive wants to testify in Congress before Katie. Nobody wants to do that because—to answer her questions—because they're to the point and they're revealing.

Katie's big—is a big reason why I've been able to make such progress dealing with health care. And that's what I want to talk to you a little bit about today.

You know, I know it's been a tough 4 or 5 years for the country. We've made a lot of progress, but, folks, we still—a lot of folks are still struggling, folks that came from the families I came from, where they sit around the kitchen table at the end of the month and wonder: "How in God's name are we going to pay for everything? Do we have enough?"

Well, you know, I think about it the way my dad did. He used to talk about it in a way that so many of you at home still talk about it around that kitchen table or that dinner table: "How much are the monthly bills? And how are we going to have to pay for all the necessities that extend beyond that? Is there enough left over?" My dad used to use the phrase "for just a little bit of breathing room."

My dad was a well-read, high school-educated guy whose great regret what—was he never got to go to school. And he used to talk about: Everyone—everyone—is entitled to be treated with dignity. And when you don't have the capacity to meet the basic needs of your children and your family, you're deprived of your dignity. You're deprived of your dignity.

It's especially the case when it comes to health care and prescription drug costs. That's why Katie's leadership and the work of the Democrats in Congress is so consequential. And, Katie, I'm not just being nice because I'm in your district; it happens to be true. [Laughter] No, no, I mean it.

You are a fighter, you're decent, you're honorable, and everybody respects you. Everybody respects you. And it's a big deal, because you get a lot done. You get a lot done.

You know, I wrote and then signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act. They used to call it—and the press has to—poor people have to follow me all over the country—and they've heard me say it before. It used to be called "Build Back Better." And—but we got almost all of it.

That Inflation Reduction Act did a lot of things. It had, like, just a short amount of money—$368 billion—for the climate, which is—it did a whole range of things. But what it did was, it took on special interests in a way that we haven't in a long time. I know I don't look it, but I've been around for a while. [Laughter] And it's one of the most significant laws in our history when it comes to helping families pay their bills at the end of the month.

Look, take the prescription drug cost. We pay more for prescription drugs than any [advanced]* nation in the world for the same—not drugs generically—the same exact drug. The cost of that drug by the same company sold in France and the United States is sometimes 25-percent cheaper—or Canada or any other place I can name for you.

And there's no reason for it, because Big Pharma has been just a dominant force. Katie laid out the numbers that they expended.

For years, many of us have been trying to fix that problem. Why is that, for example, they can—the VA can negotiate drug prices for—with Pharma? "We're not going to pay you more than a, b, c, or d, or x amount for the"—the only exemption written into the law was that Medicare—Medicare—could not negotiate the price of a drug with the drug companies, where they make billions of dollars through Medicare.

For years, Big Pharma stood in the way. And for years, there's been no check on how high or fast Pharma could raise drug prices.

When I ran for this office, I ran on this platform. It's just not right.

This year, drug companies alone raised the price of more than 1,200 drugs—this year, this calendar year—raised the price on 1,200 drugs above the rate of inflation. Not a single additional bit of information was injected into that drug. Not any more experimentation. Nothing new. Same exact drug. Same drug. And it gets increased—1,200 of them—1,200. The average price increase for those drugs was over 30 percent—30 percent.

In 2022, the price for one blood pressure drug that millions of Medicare beneficiaries rely on increased by over 500 percent. Who, in God's name, do they think they are? They thought they were impervious. They had so much power.

You think I'm joking. I've been—we've been trying—a guy like me who has been around the Senate a long time been trying to take them on forever. And they're powerful, and people were afraid to take them on.

Another drug used to treat autoimmune conditions increased just this year by $1,000—by $1,000. This is outrageous.

But this year, the American people won. We took on Big Pharma, and we beat them finally. We beat them finally.

Now, if Big Pharma tries to raise drug prices faster than inflation, they're going to have to write a check to Medicare for—to cover the difference. Now, instead of that money going into the pockets of drug companies, it's going to go into the pockets in the form of lower drug prices in America.

There's more money at the end of the month to pay for groceries, to get your car repaired, to buy your grandson a birthday present—whatever it is. The Inflation Reduction Act gives Medicare the power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. And seniors—seniors will see their out-of-pocket costs for drugs capped at $2,000 a year. If you're on Medicare, you cannot be charged more than $2,000 a year no matter what drugs you get. I'm serious. It's a gigantic change—a gigantic change.

My mother had the fortune of having successful—my two successful brothers and a sister. I was kind of the guy out, but anyway. [Laughter] But my mom lived with me after my dad died. And she used to sneak up to the drugstore to get her prescriptions because she didn't want us to know she didn't have enough money to pay for it. She wouldn't tell us.

Not—I'm not joking. I'm not joking. She didn't want anybody to know she did not have the money to pay for it. So finally, I went up, and I made sure that whatever she had in her wallet, that's what the drugstore charged her, because I gave them whatever they need. They had a card.

My generic point is: Think of all the mothers and fathers out there—like your mom was—all of them. Their pride is in the—stake at well. These are the same people who taught us to "stand up, don't complain, never explain" in my house.

Well, folks, whether it's expensive drugs, another drug they need to survive, we're talking about drugs that cost $9-, $10-, and $14,000 a year, particularly cancer drugs.

The Inflation Reduction Act caps that cost—it caps the cost of insulin.

How many of you know of someone and maybe—many of you that need that insulin for diabetes? Well, go ahead—you know how much it costs for them to make that insulin and package it? Ten—T-E-N—dollars. Ten dollars total. They're charging—they're charging up to $400 to $1,000, depending on where you live, for that drug.

I was in Virginia about 4 or 5 months ago and doing a town hall, and a woman stood up, and she started to cry. She said: "My two kids have diabetes, and we have to cut the pills in half. We have to share the insulin." I should—excuse me. "We have to share it." Said—imagine being a parent not having enough insurance, not being able to afford it, and looking at your son or daughter and knowing if they don't get that insulin, they could literally permanently be scarred and/or die. What the hell does that do to people? What's it do?

Folks, the Inflation Reduction Act caps the cost of insulin at 35 bucks a month, instead of $400 a month. Now, what Katie didn't tell you, she got, in the House, passed—it applied to everyone, not just to Medicare patients. Well, the Senate, they kicked out—they kicked out—coverage for non-Medicare patients. So there's 200,000 kids out there that you have to pay a hell of a lot for their diabetes insulin.

Folks, look, as I said, it costs $10 to make. The drug companies charge more than 30 times that. And as I said, imagine being that parent and not having the money. What do you do? What do you do? Just imagine.

Well, you're going to keep fighting for lower drug costs, saving insulin for children and families as well. Because if we keep the House and Senate this time, we are going to make sure it applies to everybody in the country. Guaranteed.

Because of the Inflation Reduction Act, seniors on Part D Medicare will also be able to get their recommended vaccines, like shingles vaccines, for free, no copay.

And tomorrow will mark the beginning of Medicaid's open enrollment period. So, when seniors pick plans for next year, they'll be able to take advantage of the progress we've made.

But that's not all. For years, the fee you pay for Medicare to cover your visits to your doctor's office have gone up. Now, for the first time in more than a decade, the fees are going to go down.

And yesterday we announced that Social Security benefits are going to be going up an average of $140 a month starting next month. And, folks, look, seniors are going to get ahead of inflation next year. For the first time in 10 years, their Social Security checks are going to go up while Medicare premiums go down. And this is a big deal for seniors.

And this morning I issued an Executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services, within 90 days, to put a plan on my desk finding an additional way to lower prescription drug costs for seniors, because there's other ways we can do this in addition.

But we're not just focused on seniors. Earlier this week, the Treasury Department took action to fix the problem that was making it harder for families to afford health care coverage for their spouse or a child, a so-called "family glitch" rule. It's a glitch all right.

Under the old rules, a working mom was told as long as she could afford employer-based coverage for herself, she couldn't qualify for premium subsidies to afford coverage for her family. Well, now, 1 million people will gain coverage and [or]* pay lower premiums.

Last year, a family of four with a health coverage through the Affordable Care Act saved $2,400 from the American Rescue Plan that I signed into law. Now, Inflation Production [Reduction]* Act is going to lock that in place for lower health care premiums for millions of families.

Folks—and by the way, the drug companies are going to continue to do very well in terms of profit. We're not costing them anything other than they should get cost.

But, folks, let me tell you something: Every single Democrat—as, in fact, Katie spoke about—every single one voted for Inflation Reduction Act. Not a single, solitary Republican in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate voted for it. Every single one voted against it. Every single one.

Not only that, now congressional Republicans are telling us their number-one priority is to repeal—if they win back the House and Senate—repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. That includes things that I'm not even talking about today, including the environment.

But let's be crystal clear of what that means. If Republicans in Congress have their way, it's going to mean the power we just gave Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices and other costs over time goes away—gone. The $2,000 cap on prescription drugs goes away—gone. The $35-a-month cap on insulin for Medicare is gone. Savings from health care premiums got just for—we just got for millions of Americans—gone.

And of course, it's not the Inflation Reduction Act they want to get rid of. They're still determined to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. You—what people don't realize—they didn't realize the Affordable Care Act is the only basis upon which people with a preexisting condition can get health care, unless you can afford an expensive policy. If Republicans have their way, that's gone as well.

And here's the bottom line, so please hear this: When it actually comes time to do something about inflation around the kitchen table, Republicans in Congress are saying, "No." If Republicans take control, the prices are going to go up, as will inflation. It's this simple.

Sadly, they go even further. Already, a vast majority of the House Republicans have signed on to a Republican budget that's going to cut—and hear me now—cut Medicare and Social Security. Cut it.

Rick Scott, the Senator from Florida, he's the head of the program to elect Republican Senators. He has proposed a plan to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every 5 years. If you don't vote for it again, it goes away. That means every 5 years, Congress will vote to cut, reduce, or completely eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

And then there's Ron Johnson, the Senator from Wisconsin. He thinks every 4 years—this is the God's truth—I don't—do we have the pamphlets out here? That—they're—there are pamphlets. Take a look at it. Their words, not mine.

He thinks every 5 years is too long to wait, so he wants Social Security and Medicare to be on the chopping block every single, solitary year. If Congress doesn't vote to keep it, it goes away. It goes away. Not just Social Security and Medicare, he wants to put veterans benefits and everything else in the Federal budget at risk.

Folks, let me close with this. Over the last few years, we've faced some of the most difficult challenges in our history, but we're making real progress. We've got a long way to go, but we're making real progress helping folks get a little more breathing room.

Despite the opposition from some of the most powerful special interests in the Nation, we're lowering health care costs and strengthening Medicare. And we're fighting for folks who need our help. It's one of the reasons why I'm so optimistic about America's future.

We just have to remember who in God's name we are. This is the United States of America. No, not a joke. Look, there's not ever been a damn thing we can't do when we've set our mind to it. Name me something we've ever tried to—you're smiling, but name me one. [Laughter] Name me one thing we've ever tried to accomplish that when we did it together, we haven't been able to do it. There's nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity. And that's the God's truth. Think about it.

And the American public, over the last 5 years, has begun to lose hope that it's within our power to do almost anything, but we really can. But we've got to stick together.

And I don't care whether you're a Democrat or Republican or an Independent. The idea that people can charge 30, 40, 50, 60 times what it costs to make a drug, it just makes no sense when there's no alternative. It's not like you raise the price on a Chevy 10 times, and you still can't go buy a Ford. I'm not joking. Where there's no options.

So, folks, I want to thank Katie for her incredible work. And I mean it. She is incredible at what she does. I mean it, Katie.

And I want to say to all of you, God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:08 p.m. at Irvine Valley Community College. In his remarks, he referred to Susan Meyer, regional organizer for Orange County, San Diego, and Inland Empire, California Alliance for Retired Americans; Reps. J. Luis Correa and Katherine M. Porter; and Midlothian, VA, resident Shannon Davis and her sons Joshua and Jackson. He also referred to his sister Valerie Biden Owens and brothers James B. and Francis Biden; and Executive Order 14087.

* White House correction.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on Efforts To Reduce Prescription Drug Costs in Irvine, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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