On Friday, November 19th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act, with 42 California congressmembers voting to advance the historic legislation that would help lower health care costs and otherwise make investments to improve our health care system. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration, and would come back to the House for a concurrence vote before heading to President Biden for a signature.
The bill passed by the House is the most significant step to lower health costs and expand coverage since the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Californians will benefit from lower health care premiums, more affordable prescription drugs, and enhanced Medicare benefits. The bill helps lower health care costs for Californians, whether they get coverage in Medicare, Medi-Cal, Covered California, or in a private health plan.
Important victories that will help Californians and our health system include:
LOWER HEALTH PREMIUMS
- The bills keeps health care affordable for those who purchase coverage on their own, by extending the financial assistance through 2025 that was initially implemented in the American Rescue Plan. This will continue to help almost all of the 1.4 million Covered California enrollees who are seeing a savings of an average of $1,000 per year to their health care coverage. This gives all who buy coverage as individuals a guarantee they don’t have to spend more than 8.5% of income on coverage – especially urgent in our high-cost state.
LOWER PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES
- The bill would help save billions in drug costs for Californians. Most notably, the bill allows Medicare, for the first time, to directly negotiate the price of some prescription drugs, starting in 2025. Even sooner, it caps co-payments for insulin at $35, and caps overall prescription drug out-of-pocket costs in Medicare Part D at $2,000, and prevents prescription price spikes that are higher than inflation.
IMPROVEMENTS IN MEDICARE AND MEDI-CAL
- Over 6 million Californians on Medicare would get coverage to get hearing aids, which are expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Other investments in Medicaid would invest in improvements for children and mothers, and home care for older Americans and people with disabilities.
Just one of the health provisions of this bill would be a big benefit in its own right, and together they represent major health reform that will provide real relief on health care costs for California consumers.
This could be called the Additional Affordable Assistance for Health Coverage Act, the Cap Insulin Co-Pays Act, the Hearing Aids for All Seniors Act, or the Prescription Drug Price Reform Act.
Consumer advocates have been actively working to support this Build Back Better bill, even as we continue to work to strengthen prescription drug price reform, to make the ACA affordability assistance permanent, and to further expand Medicare to include dental benefits.
We thank all our California Congressmembers who supported this package and we urge quick passage in the Senate.