The President said he will make Medicare “solvent beyond 2050 without cutting a penny in benefits.”
President Joseph R. Biden released a guest essay1 in the New York Times on March 7, in which he outlined the future outlook for Medicare, including plans to build on drug price reforms and let Medicare negotiate the price of drugs more quickly after they launch. Drug prices, most notably insulin, have been in the news frequently in 2023; in early March, pharma giant Eli Lilly announced plans to cut insulin costs by 70% and cap out-of-pocket payments at $35 a month for many users, a move that Joe Biden called “a big deal.”2
In his op-ed, Biden blasted Republicans for supporting policies that he believes will increase drug costs for older individuals. “Seniors will pay higher out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs and insulin, the deficit will be bigger, and Medicare will be weaker,” he wrote “The only winner under their plan will be big pharma. That’s not how we extend Medicare’s life for another generation or grow the economy.”
Florida governor Ron DeSantis—who many believe will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024—said in late 2022 that he believes the Inflation Reduction Act will actually increase inflation, and that the bill is “not designed to serve the best interests of average Americans.” DeSantis has also mentioned privatizing Medicare and Social Security in the past, though recently refused to comment on his position regarding them both.3
“My Republican friends claim that the only way to be serious about preserving Medicare is to cut benefits, including by making it a voucher program worth less and less every year,” Biden added.
Biden also vowed not to raise taxes on any individuals making under $400,000 per year and reaffirmed his plans to increase the Medicare tax from 3.8% to 5% for anyone who makes more than $400,000: around 2.8 million individuals, according to the IRS. He talked about the importance of making the “wealthiest…pay just a little bit more of their fair share,” and discussed wealth inequality in the United States.
“When Medicare was passed, the wealthiest 1% of Americans didn’t have more than 5 times the wealth of the bottom 50% combined, and it only makes sense that some adjustments be made to reflect that reality today,” Biden wrote, referring to data from the Federal Reserve which concluded that the top 1% of households in the United States hold 32% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50% of households hold under 3%.
A switch to a fully nationalized, public insurance option for everyone—which a majority of US voters support—would be the biggest adjustment President Biden could make, though the President has made clear that he does not support Medicare For All, opting to keep the overall structure of insurance in the US intact for as long as possible.
Biden also defended the Affordable Care Act (ACA), saying it outperformed expectations in regard to health care spending since it was enacted in March 2010. “In the decade after the ACA, Medicare actually spent about $1 trillion less than the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected before the ACA reforms were in place. In 2009, before the ACA, the Medicare trustees projected that Medicare’s trust fund would be exhausted in 2017; their latest projection is 2028.”
Biden J. Joe Biden: My plan to extend Medicare for another generation. The New York Times. Published March 7, 2023. Accessed March 8, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/07/opinion/joe-biden-medicare.html
Statement from President Joe Biden on action to lower insulin costs. News release. The White House. March 1, 2023. Accessed March 1, 2023. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/03/01/statement-from-president-joe-biden-on-action-to-lower-insulin-costs/
Kaczynski A, Steck E. Ron DeSantis once expressed support for privatizing Social Security and Medicare giving his rivals an opening. CNN. Published February 9, 2023. Accessed March 8, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/09/politics/kfile-ron-desantis-privatize-social-security-medicare/index.html