Op-EdAppeared in Washington Times on June 3, 2024By Dr. Tom Price

Older Americans hit hard by Biden’s Medicare funny business

Government data recently revealed that overall consumer prices have hit a grim milestone — increasing by more than 20% under the Biden administration. But the price of food or electricity doesn’t tell the full story. Despite the White House regularly trumpeting its efforts to save older Americans money, Democrats’ funny business has contributed to inflated health care costs for older adults on fixed incomes.

It’s not a great look for the Biden campaign going into November. Roughly one-third of voters are 65 or older.

Provisions in the laughably misnamed Inflation Reduction Act are fueling the political liability. The federal legislation, signed into law in 2022, flips Medicare Part D upside down by empowering the government to apply price controls on specific drugs accessed through the program. The consequences far outweigh the potential near-term benefits of forcing companies to offer medicine at a fraction of the market price.

Beyond blunting incentives for drugmakers to develop new, lifesaving treatments, therapies and vaccines — a setback that has been well reported — older Americans will likely experience fewer Part D plan choices and higher overall costs. Average Part D premiums paid by older adults are 21% higher this year compared with 2023, with some states experiencing monthly payments that have jumped by more than half.

And what will Medicare beneficiaries get for the higher Part D premiums? Fewer options. Of existing medications, Medicare coverage will inevitably prioritize the products that fall under Uncle Sam’s price controls because of artificially rock-bottom costs. But given that a limited number of drugs fall into that category, what happens when the best treatment involves an alternative medication?

Similar to how the tech giant Apple makes using off-brand products with its iPhones a frustrating exercise, some drugs could get the cold shoulder under Medicare. God forbid that someone might prefer an off-brand cell phone charger or — in this case — a generic medication.

Despite the obvious negative side effects of the White House’s policy prescription for health care costs, the Biden administration is moving full steam ahead to expand the list of medicines that will be subject to government price controls. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently kicked off its bureaucratic process to choose what drugs will be hit in 2027.

It’s unlikely that President Biden will pull the emergency brake on this misguided experiment. But to help dull the negative repercussions, the administration can and should give physicians a seat at the table when these decisions are being made. The idea of health policy bureaucrats alone making these choices is akin to going to the Department of Motor Vehicles to negotiate a car price. It just doesn’t make sense.

Physicians’ insights into the popularity of certain types of medicines and how the drugs are used in practice can help inform committee decisions about what products to choose and how to price them to mitigate fallout.

Higher prices at the supermarket or clothing store are political liabilities that will continue to be hung around Mr. Biden’s neck as November approaches. And his administration’s actions that are mucking up Medicare for older Americans will add weight. These kitchen table issues will influence who is sitting in the Oval Office come January.

Dr. Tom Price served as the 23rd U.S. secretary of health and human services and is a senior health care policy fellow at the Job Creators Network.