Tag: medicare
Johnson & Johnson Sues Biden Over Law Reducing Prescription Drug Costs

Johnson & Johnson Sues Biden Over Law Reducing Prescription Drug Costs

CNBC reports that Johnson & Johnson sued the Biden administration on Tuesdayin an attempt to halt provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act designed to cut the cost of prescription drugs. The suit follows similar legal maneuvering by drug giants Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb.

President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022 after it passed both houses of Congress with only Democratic votes and over unified Republican opposition. A provision in the legislation allows the federal Medicare program to negotiate drug prices for some of the medications covered by program benefits.

The lawsuit filed by Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey’s federal district court aims to block the Department of Health and Human Services from compelling the company to participate in the federal program. According to CNBC, the company alleges that the legislation is the result of “innovation-damaging congressional overreach.”

Merck sued the administration in June, complaining that the process to lower prices is a “sham.” A week later Bristol Myers Squibb also sued, noting that its blood thinner Eliquis and its cancer treatment Opdivo would be included in price negotiations. Both drugs were significant contributors to the company’s profits in 2022, with a reported combined $20 billion in sales.

The Biden administration has been sued over the prescription drug benefit by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the lobbyist group for multiple drugmakers.

“We’ll vigorously defend the President’s drug price negotiation law, which is already lowering health care costs for seniors and people with disabilities. The law is on our side,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tweeted on June 6 in response to Merck’s suit.

Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Bristol Myers Squibb earn billions from drug sales. For 2022, Johnson & Johnson reported sales of $94.9 billion and $27 billion in profits. That same year, Merck’s net income was $14.5 billion and Bristol Myers Squibb’s was $6.3 billion.

In addition to the drug negotiation provisions, the Inflation Reduction Act also contains other stipulations designed to lower drug costs.

The law requires drug companies to provide rebates to Medicare if drug prices increase at a rate higher than inflation. The Department of Health and Human Services released a list of 43 drugs on June 9 that fall under this provision.

Prescription drug costs are now capped at $2,000 per year in out-of-pocket expenses for many Medicare recipients as a result of the law.

Insulin costs are also capped at $35 per month for certain Medicare recipients. In March, drug manufacturer Eli Lilly announced that it would cap the price of its insulin drug itself, including for patients outside the Medicare system, citing the changes implemented by Biden’s law.

In spite of its benefits for millions of consumers, congressional Republicans on February 3 introduced H.R. 812, a bill that would completely repeal the entire law. Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement touting his legislation, “Instead of creating any positive change for Americans facing record-breaking economic challenges, Leftists opted to increase federal spending and the deficit – by at least $110 billion dollars through 2031 – in order to advance their personal political agendas.”

During remarks on February 9 at the University of Tampa in Florida, Biden warned about the fallout for medical patients if Ogles’ bill becomes law.

“If Republicans in Congress have their way, the power we just gave Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices goes away. The $2,000 cap next year on prescription drugs goes away. The $35-a-month insulin limitation goes away,” Biden said.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Kevin McCarthy

House Republicans Outline Their Plan To Kill Social Security And Medicare

Republicans are never going to be known for their eco-friendliness, but there is one thing they are very good at recycling: plots that combine ending Social Security and Medicare with schemes to cut taxes for the rich. They’re at it again with a new fiscal blueprint for the next 10 years reconstituted from the stuff they’ve been scraping up for the last few decades. The Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in the GOP with around 175 members, just released what they’re calling a budget.

This is not the official 2024 Republican budget—there isn’t one, and while this group has the majority of the Republicans in it, it is not an actual congressional committee that has power to do anything. But this is what the majority of Republicans think should happen: cutting Social Security and Medicare and slashing domestic spending programs to the bone.

Their plan starts with raising the retirement age from the current age of 67 to 69, but wouldn’t kick in until people now aged 59 retire. They’d have to wait three months longer to retire than under the current system. The wait increases incrementally until the people who are now 52 years old retire. They—and everyone younger—would have to work until they turn 69 to get full benefits. Republicans don’t want to risk alienating seniors now, so they’re going after Gen X.

That’s a benefit cut, any way you slice it, for future retirees. “These changes would transform Social Security from an earned insurance benefit, which replaces wages lost in the event of old age, disability, or death, into a subsistence-level welfare benefit,” says Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works.

The plan resurrects the old Paul Ryan Medicare voucher scheme, calling it “premium support.” As Altman explains it, seniors would be forced to “fend for themselves on the open market with nothing but a coupon to offset as much of the cost of the insurance that they can find.”

Meanwhile, the 2017 GOP Tax Scam, with its “eye-popping payouts for CEOs,” would be made permanent. It’s set to expire in 2025. Enough said.

The White House was quick to respond:

That’s true. In addition to ending Social Security and Medicare as we know it, the Republicans would roll back the new authority Medicare has for negotiating lower drug prices and to force drug makers to curtail price increases. They also want to repeal the cap on insulin costs for Medicare enrollees. Yes, Republicans are the party of unaffordable insulin.

These are the same Republicans who booed and hissed at President Joe Biden in his State of the Union speech for telling the truth about their plot against Social Security and Medicare. The same Republicans who cheered and leapt to their feet when Biden asked them to “stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare.”

No one expected that to last, to be honest. It kept the programs out of the debt ceiling negotiations, which was great. But they’re never going to give up their goal of destroying the social safety net. Just like they’re not giving up on cutting taxes, slashing services, and privatizing whatever remains for personal profit. It’s all they got.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy Admits Biden 'Walled Off' Social Security And Medicare In Buidget Talks

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Wednesday that he wants to create a commission to look into future cuts to Social Security and Medicare because President Joe Biden refused to allow any cuts to the programs during negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.

“We only got to look at 11 percent of the budget to find these cuts. We have to look at the entire budget,” McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox News.

When anchor Harris Faulkner asked McCarthy why Republicans didn’t see the entire budget during debt ceiling talks, McCarthy replied, “The president walled off all the others.”

McCarthy said: “The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It’s Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt.” He told Faulkner that Congress was not done cutting spending out of the budget: “You know what, I’m going to make some people uncomfortable by doing that, but I’m not going to give up on the American people. … This is the first step. I’m going to announce a commission coming forward from the speaker, from bipartisan on both sides of the aisle,” to look for possible further budget cuts.

It’s unclear who would be on the committee, or how it would be different from the House Budget Committee, which exercises oversight of the annual federal budget. A McCarthy spokesperson did not return a request for comment from the American Independent Foundation regarding the committee’s makeup.

But Democrats are already slamming the proposal.

“The Speaker is once again making it clear that Republicans cannot be trusted to protect these lifesaving programs and that’s why voters will relegate them back to the minority next year,” Viet Shelton, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House, told the American Independent Foundation.

McCarthy and House Republicans had been refusing to raise the debt ceiling without any cuts in federal spending, claiming the national debt is out of control and needs to be reined in. Republican lawmakers, however, played a large role in the debt, voting to pass a massive tax bill and multiple COVID-19 packages that added $7.8 trillion in debt during former President Donald Trump’s tenure, according to a report from ProPublica.

In remarks prepared for his State of the Union address in February, Biden asked Republicans to agree that they would not force cuts to Social Security and Medicaid in exchange for raising the debt ceiling:

Let us commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned. Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage unless I agree to their economic plans. All of you at home should know what their plans are. Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years. That means if Congress doesn’t vote to keep them, those programs will go away. Other Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history. I won’t let that happen. Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for millions of seniors.

When Republicans booed Biden’s comments, he ad libbed, “As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?”

As a result of Social Security and Medicare cuts being taken off the table during the debt ceiling negotiations, White House concessions to House Republicans were confined to caps on discretionary spending for the next two years, some cuts to IRS funding, and new work requirements for food stamps.

Republican hard-liners have railed against the deal, which would suspend the debt limit through January 2025, after which it would raise the cap by one percent, saying it did not make enough cuts.

“No. Republican. Should. Support. This,” Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican leading the opposition to the deal, tweeted on Tuesday.

Combined, Social Security and Medicare account for nearly one-third of the federal budget, according to data from the Treasury Department.

But cutting funding to the programs, which provide retirement, survivor, disability and health care benefits to Americans, is deeply unpopular among voters.

An Associated Press poll published in April found 79 percent of voters oppose cutting Social Security benefits or raising the eligibility age, while 70 percent oppose raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

A Fox News poll from March found that 71 percent of voters thought it was more important to keep the Social Security and Medicare programs funded at current levels than to reduce the deficit.

Democrats have applauded Biden for the deal he negotiated.

“I commend President Biden for his leadership in fending off devastating cuts and protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” Rep. Kevin Mullin (D-CA) tweeted early Thursday morning.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Janet Yellen

House Republicans Pushing New Scheme To Damage Social Security

Barely House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been valiantly trying to turn the tables on President Joe Biden for months, ever since the president so deftly boxed in Republicans at the State of the Union address in early February and forced them to agree that Social Security and Medicare are sacrosanct. Sounding like a grade schooler, McCarthy tried to taunt Biden ahead of the House vote on the Republicans’ dystopian debt ceiling hike and funding cuts extortion bill. Biden’s the one too “afraid” to meet with him, and the one who’s “jeopardizing Medicare and Social Security,” McCarthy whined.

Biden is refusing to engage in the tit-for-tat, keeping on message that Social Security and Medicare are too important to be playing these kinds of games over. A White House official told Bloomberg on background that they believe it’s a key wedge issue against Republicans in 2024, and will use it to fight McCarthy’s debt ceiling extortion and keep using it even after that issue is resolved.

While Biden is continuing to insist that budget talks and the debt ceiling remain separate issues, he’s keeping the drumbeat of protecting these programs, with the message “MAGA extremists are trying to gut Social Security and Medicare.”

There’s good reason for that: polling. A new YouGov/Economist poll shows that 70 percent of voters oppose cuts to the programs, and that includes 64 percent of Republican voters. Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, told Bloomberg, “Social Security and Medicare is the number one winning argument against Republicans in polling.”

There’s also the fact that it happens to be true that Republicans just can’t stop themselves from trying to damage the programs. While they didn’t include actual benefits cuts in the debt ceiling extortion bill, they propose such drastic cuts to the Social Security Administration that enrollees in the programs would be harmed.

The 22 percent across-the-board cuts required by the bill “would greatly harm our ability to serve the public as we are already struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic,” the Social Security Administration told House Democrats in a letter responding to their request for estimates of the impact McCarthy’s bill would have. The SSA would have to close field offices and shorten operating hours, as well as furlough or lay off workers. All this would mean delays in disability application decisions and processing retirement claims.

“If we are faced with a cut of more than six percent, it would be catastrophic for the agency and for the people depending on Social Security programs supporting their daily needs,” SSA said. ”For every $100 million below the 6 percent reduction, we would have to lay off an additional 1,000 people, further undermining services to the public. Every 1,000 staff lay off is the equivalent of closing over 40 field offices.”

That’s the best-case scenario under the Republican plan. But since they are showing every inclination to go over the debt ceiling cliff, the worst could happen. If it does, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said this week, “it is unlikely that the federal government would be able to issue payments to millions of Americans, including our military families and seniors who rely on Social Security.”

McCarthy seems to be operating under the assumption that the funding cuts part of his extortion bill takes the place of creating an actual budget, because it’s almost May—weeks behind the stated (albeit rarely met) deadline for it, and the House still hasn’t done that.

The only complete budget any House Republican group has developed came from the Republican Study Committee—which has most of the Republican conference as members—before the last election. It has provisions “raising the eligibility ages for each program, along with withholding payments for individuals who retire early or had a certain income, and privatized funding for Social Security to lower income taxes.”

Those are definitely benefit cuts.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.