Last week’s surprise agreement between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) makes the pending budget reconciliation act —now called the Inflation Reduction Act — perhaps the most important health care bill considered by the Congress since the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
The legislation’s specific health care provisions are historic in their own right. The bill seriously addresses for the first time the outrageous cost of pharmaceuticals in the U.S., which has long been a priority for voters. Americans pay multiples of what citizens of other countries pay for drugs. By authorizing Medicare to negotiate the price of some particularly expensive drugs, the law sets an important precedent for future efforts to make lifesaving pharmaceuticals — many of them created with help from taxpayer-funded research — more affordable for Americans. In the process, it reduces federal spending by an estimated $288 billion.