The shriveled remains of Joe Biden’s already inadequate Build Back Bitter bill just passed the US Senate as a part of the reconciliation package, which, as you probably know, is not subject to a filibuster.
Unfortunately, the price controls for insulin were ruled out of order, and it can be legitimately be called the most effective legislation on anthropogenic climate change ever passed, if just because there has been no other legislation on dealing with climate change:
The Senate passed legislation on Sunday that would make the most significant federal investment in history to counter climate change and lower the cost of prescription drugs, as Democrats banded together to push through major pieces of President Biden’s domestic agenda over unified Republican opposition.
The measure, large elements of which appeared dead just weeks ago amid Democratic divisions, would inject more than $370 billion into climate and energy programs. Altogether, the bill could allow the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions about 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
It would achieve Democrats’ longstanding goal of slashing prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare for the first time to negotiate the prices of medicines directly and capping the amount that recipients pay out of pocket for drugs each year at $2,000. The measure also would extend larger premium subsidies for health coverage for low- and middle-income people under the Affordable Care Act for three years.
And it would be paid for by substantial tax increases, mostly on large corporations, including establishing a 15 percent corporate minimum tax and imposing a new tax on company stock buybacks.
It should be noted that the sections on drug negotiation allow for only 10 drugs to be so covered, so it’s less than one would really hope.
Republicans did succeed in forcing the removal of a $35 cap on insulin prices for patients on private insurance, challenging it as a violation of Senate rules in a vote that Democrats were all but certain to use as a political weapon against them ahead of the midterms. The insulin price cap for Medicare patients remained untouched in the bill, with the potential to help millions of seniors.
This will be scant solace for the millions of people, many of them children, who need insulin to live and have to pay hundreds of dollars a month for the long out of patent hormone essential for the survival of people suffering from Type 1 diabetes.
As part of its landmark climate and energy initiative, which would put the Biden administration within reach of its aim to cut emissions roughly in half by 2030, the bill would offer tax incentives to steer consumers to electric vehicles and lure electric utilities toward renewable energy sources like wind or solar power. It also includes millions of dollars in climate resiliency funding for tribal governments and Native Hawaiians, as well as $60 billion to help disadvantaged areas that are disproportionately affected by climate change.
The legislation would allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of up to 10 prescription drugs initially, beginning in 2026, and give seniors access to free vaccines. Coupled with a three-year extension of expanded health care subsidies first approved last year as part of the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid law, the package amounts to the largest change to national health policy since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Call me a cynic, but on substance, this bill is pretty, “Meh,” and I’m not sure if it’s any better on the politics.