NEW BRITAIN â€“ In the wake of President Joe Bidenâ€™s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes of Connecticutâ€™s 5th District and Gov. Ned Lamont gathered at the New Britain Senior Center Friday to laud legislation aiming to lower out-of-pocket expenses for those enrolled in Medicare.
â€śThe bill that we just passed in Congress that was signed into law by the president really addresses for the first time the cost of prescription drugs,â€ť Hayes said. â€śIt is a monumental piece of legislation that caps outâ€“of-pocket expenses that limit insulin at $35 per month and allow, for the first time ever, Medicare to negotiate for the cost of prescription drugs.â€ť
Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act Aug. 16.
The congresswoman said the list of drugs was short at this time but the bill would increase business competition to lower costs. The cap for insulin applies to Medicare but not private insurance. Republicans blocked the addition of a private insurance insulin cap.
â€śWe want to make sure people understand and know what this is but to also make sure you know where to find the resources if you have questions,â€ť she said. She encouraged area residents to contact her office.
Blumenthal thanked colleagues such as Hayes for their help in the â€śfightâ€ť to get the legislation passed.
â€śI came to senior centers throughout the state of Connecticut, most recently just a few days ago in East Hartford, and what I heard from you was crushing burden, the absolutely intolerable unfairness of prices for medicine that you need to survive and how you were making choices on out-of-pocket costs at your kitchen table,â€ť the senator said.
Blumenthal said important items like houses and cars are often negotiated by families when considering purchases. However, for decades Medicare was required to pay set prices by sellers.
â€śNot so on the VA,â€ť he said as a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. â€śThe VA negotiates its prices and gets lower prices.â€ť
He criticized the prices of drugs in the U.S. in comparison to those of other countries.Â
â€śIf those prices for medicine rise faster than the rate of inflation, you get a rebate,â€ť Blumenthal said. â€śBig pharma has had us by the neck for too long. We stood up to them and said itâ€™s not your way or the highway. Weâ€™re going to get a decent bargain for the people of America who need pharmaceutical drugs and good healthcare.â€ť
The senator noted the legislation also provides credit and rebates for those who attempt to create healthier home environments.
Blumenthal credited Lamont and supporters with capping insulin costs in Connecticut but it had not been so in the rest of the country.Â
Lamont said it was important to keep Connecticut a family-friendly state as well as a â€śgrandparent-friendlyâ€ť state.Â
â€śI want this to be a place you can afford to stay and be and live and have amazing senior centers like this (New Britain Senior Center) and watch your grandchildren grow up, not watching them on Zoom from some condo in Delray, but right here in New Britain where you grew up,â€ť the governor said.Â
Lamont said Connecticut had eliminated taxes for many residents in regards to pensions, 401(k)s and efforts in social security were being made. The estate tax for almost all seniors in Connecticut had been eliminated and more. He encouraged residents to take advantage of out-of-pocket caps.
â€śThese are the type of reforms that make an enormous difference,â€ť Lamont said.
Blumenthal said prices of some of the 10 most expensive drugs are anticipated to drop in 2023 and then groups of 10 more drugs in following years, each year. The effects will take some time to gain momentum.
In light of controversy with Obamacare roughly a decade ago, when asked by a reporter what lessons had been learned in attempting to reach citizens and counter Republican criticisms of the Inflation Reduction Act driving inflation, Lamont replied, â€śWhat? Holding down the high cost of healthcare is going to drive inflation?â€ťÂ
The governor said he felt Obamacare was one of the most important pieces of legislation made in the country in a long time. He noted that a lot of small employers and those who were self-employed didnâ€™t have as much power to negotiate and drive down costs. Lamont said the Affordable Care Act allowed for small businesses to do that.
â€śThanks to the bill these guys passed, your out-of-pocket expenses up to like $150,000 is capped at eight percent,â€ť he continued.Â
Hayes said, â€śWe want to keep people healthy. We want to make sure that we have a system where that works and people should not go bankrupt trying to stay alive.â€ť She felt such issues should be considered nonpartisan.
Blumenthal noted that within the bill was an extension of expanded subsidies for healthcare systems and not Medicare.
â€śThis expanded subsidy was passed as part of the American Rescue Act. The American Rescue Act increased the subsidies for insurance for just ordinary people, everyday Americans. It was going to expire, literally. Americans were going to be paying more for their insurance. This bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, extends those subsidies through 2025,â€ť he said.