In his first State of the Union speech, President Biden addressed the ever-rising prescription drug prices that continue to plague Americans — especially seniors — and called on Congress to pass legislation to provide relief.  “Let’s cut the cost of prescription drugs. We pay more for the same drug produced by the same company than any other country in the world,” said the President Tuesday night.  “And while we’re at it, let Medicare negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, like the VA already does.”

“President Biden was right to keep urging Congress to lower prescription drug prices during tonight’s address. Millions of seniors are suffering from sky high prescription prices. The President’s Build Back Better plan would have been a good start in taming drug costs. But with that legislation now stalled in the Senate, the President is correct that it’s incumbent on Congress to find another way to pass prescription drug reform legislation.” – Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare maintains that any meaningful reform must, at the very least, include Medicare price negotiation and caps on Americans’ out-of-pocket drug costs.  But even those commonsense measures have confronted a wall of opposition from Big Pharma. The drug industry has unleashed a relentless lobbying campaign against even the most basic reforms — and has continued to shower Congress with hefty campaign contributions. Meanwhile, during the first month of 2022, drug-makers increased the prices of over 700 medications.

“Many seniors find themselves rationing vital medications or simply not filling prescriptions due to cost. The President is on the right track. Lawmakers must decide whether their allegiance is to the American people — who support prescription drug price reform by overwhelming majorities — or to torrents of drug industry dollars.” – Max Richtman

The President has made his priorities for America’s seniors clear. Now it is up to Congress to act, not only to lower prescription drugs, but to expand and strengthen seniors’ earned benefits. Congress must act soon to ensure that Social Security’s trust fund reserves do not become depleted as projected by 2034.  At the same time, Social Security benefits must be boosted to meet the growing costs of growing old in America.

Rep. John Larson’s bill, the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, would both protect and expand Social Security. It has 200 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives and should be brought up for a vote this spring.

Meanwhile, Medicare must be expanded to include much-needed hearing, vision, and dental coverage.  Last year, all three of these were under consideration as part of the President’s Build Back Better plan, though only hearing benefits survived in the final package.

“Roadblocks in the Senate prevented passage of the entire Build Back Better plan, killing Medicare expansion for now. Though the President did not include this in the State of the Union, seniors are counting on lawmakers to consider their most urgent needs moving forward. And they are counting on the President to keep the pressure on Congress to do the right thing.” – Max Richtman

The President also addressed shortcomings at U.S. nursing homes made glaringly evident during the COVID pandemic. He noted that “quality in those homes has gone down and costs have gone up,” adding, “That ends on my watch.” He promised that Medicare will set higher standards for nursing homes “and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and expect.”