Health Advocates Press for Passage of Build Back Better Act

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
The Build Back Better Act would lower drug prices by authorizing the feds to negotiate lower costs for Medicare. Photo Credit: Flickr

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Congress still is debating the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, and groups that fight for better health care are pressing for passage.

Notably, the bill would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Medicare, to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs and extend those prices to private insurers, so everyone could benefit.

Yvette Brisco, a Central Valley health advocate and multiple sclerosis patient, said the change could save California consumers $6.4 billion per year.

“Prescription drug prices should not be the thing that makes you choose between whether or not you eat and whether or not you get help,” Brisco asserted.

The bill could also expand Medicare to cover dental and vision care for millions of older Americans.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., from Fresno, said the current system leads to a lot of suffering.

“The high prices force people to ration or stop taking their medications,” Costa observed. “[It] results in serious, serious health implications.”

The American Rescue Plan provides $1.4 billion a year to help people pay for plans on the Covered California marketplace. The Build Back Better bill could extend those subsidies.

Mark Herbert with the California Small Business Majority noted half of the people on the Covered California marketplace work for small businesses or are self-employed.

“Extending those subsidies to allow business owners to still access affordable insurance is really critical,” Herbert contended.

The nonprofit Health Access estimates without major funding in the Build Back Better bill, more than 1.4 million people on Covered California plans could see their premiums rise by up to $1,000 a year.