Biden Budget Will Propose Tax Increase to Bolster Medicare

The legislation allows Medicare to regulate the price of certain expensive drugs that have been on the market for several years. It also limits the amount all drugmakers can raise prices each year. Those reforms would save Medicare about $160 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The changes to prescription drug prices accompanied changes to Medicare’s benefit that will also lower the costs of expensive drugs for its beneficiaries, by capping the total amount they can be asked to pay in a year for all their medicines and by limiting co-payments on insulin to $35 a month.

Mr. Biden will propose expanding the drug negotiations by allowing the government to negotiate over a broader universe of medications. The White House estimates that those changes and other tweaks to the drug negotiation provision would save the government an additional $200 billion over 10 years, which it seeks to direct to the Medicare trust fund.

The United States pays more than double the drug prices of other developed countries. But lowering those prices is projected to cause less investment in new drug technology. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the drug price reforms that passed last year will mean about 13 fewer drugs in the next 30 years, about a 1 percent reduction. The budget proposal would likely have a larger effect.

Democrats cheered the proposals. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who chairs the finance committee, called them “proof positive that Medicare’s guarantee of quality health care for older Americans can be secured for the next generation without raising the eligibility age, cutting benefits or handing over the program to big insurance companies.”

Mr. Biden did not propose other major new policies to reduce Medicare’s spending on health care in the coming years, according to the fact sheet. His proposal, like his previous budgets, omits a series of policies meant to reduce waste that were featured in budgets offered by Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama. The largest categories of Medicare spending — payments to doctors and hospitals — would be unchanged.

Republicans are unlikely to go along. They have tried to overturn the entire Inflation Reduction Act, including the drug negotiations, which some members of the party say will hamper innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. They have also sought to roll back Mr. Biden’s tax increases on corporations and high earners.

Mr. Biden’s plans drew mixed reactions from budget-focused groups in Washington on Tuesday. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said it would “strongly support” the proposals but had reservations over shifting revenues from the government’s general fund to the Medicare trust fund. The National Taxpayers Union, which supports lower taxes and less federal spending, called those shifts “a gimmick, not a real reform.”

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