Hospitals, health groups praise Inflation Reduction Act

The measure would help Americans pay for health insurance and also lower some prescription drug costs. The House is expected to vote this week, sending it to President Biden.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations hailed the Senate spending measure for its inclusion of key provisions, including measures that will help Americans buy health insurance and cap prescription drug costs.

The House of Representatives is expected to approve the $740 billion package this week, sending it to President Joe Biden. The Senate narrowly passed the measure over the weekend, which pours big investments into climate change and includes new corporate taxes aimed at reducing the deficit.

Hospital and health system leaders hailed the bill’s health provisions and the efforts to tackle climate change, which is viewed by top health officials as a public health threat. For the first time, Medicare would be given the ability to negotiate prices on some prescription drugs. However, some hoped the legislation would offer more aid for hospitals.

Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, praised lawmakers and the Biden administration “for finding common ground on legislation to preserve access to affordable health care coverage and mitigate climate change, which disproportionately harms marginalized people and communities.”

In a statement, Siegel urged the House to pass the measure and get it to the president’s desk.

“By extending Affordable Care Act subsidies, the Inflation Reduction Act would safeguard access to care for millions of individuals and families — a critically important outcome, given the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and emerging public health challenges, such as monkeypox,” Siegel said in a statement.

However, Siegel said his organization is “disappointed it lacks funding for hospital workforce and infrastructure needs.” Hospitals have criticized the government for not offering more aid to deal with surges of COVID-19 patients, including those affected by the Delta and Omicron variants.

“Essential hospitals face persistent staffing shortages, high labor costs, and infrastructure constraints,” Siegel said. “They need more funding from Congress to meet these challenges as the impacts of the pandemic continue.”

David J. Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical College, issued a statement saying the package “would benefit patients, communities, and families by increasing access to care nationwide by extending Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium tax credits and helping to address the issue of high prescription drug prices.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many disparities in access to coverage and care, we commend senators for agreeing on a bill that will allow patients and families to maintain access to affordable coverage, empowering them to seek care before treatable conditions become more complicated and costly,” he added. Skorton also urged the House to approve the measure and get it to Biden without delay.

The American Public Health Association said in a statement the legislation “will protect the public from the health threats associated with climate change and expand access to comprehensive and affordable health coverage.”

Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the Senate “made climate history.”

“This is the most significant action the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate change,” Bapna said in a statement. “It will benefit the people of all 50 states—their health, their wallets, their homes and their future. And it will help the U.S. deliver on its undeniable responsibility to the rest of the world to do its part to address this global crisis.”

The package directs $64 billion to expand tax credits to help Americans pay for health insurance. The bill would extend the Affordable Care Tax credits, which are set to expire at the end of the year, through 2025.

The legislation would cap out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries buying their drugs from pharmacies at $2,000 annually, the Associated Press reports.

The package also directs $375 billion over the next decade in efforts to reduce the impact of climate change, with new investments in renewable energy and rebates for wind and solar energy.

Some patient advocates weren’t happy that a provision capping insulin prices at $35 per dose was eliminated from the final Senate bill.

The package will be financed by new corporate taxes and the anticipated savings on prescription drug costs.