TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As announced Friday, President Joe Biden will be in Tampa to discuss Social Security, Medicare, and plans to address and lower healthcare costs for Americans.
“In Tampa, Florida today, President Biden will highlight the work his Administration is doing to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security, while Republican Members of Congress continue to push plans that would undermine these programs and the economic security of millions of their constituents,” the White House said in a statement ahead of the Tampa event.
Biden speaks at University of Tampa
Biden spoke at the University of Tampa on Thursday afternoon. The visit comes as he attempts to lay the groundwork for an expected reelection campaign announcement in the spring., following a stop in Wisconsin the day before.
The topics of Social Security, Medicare, and other healthcare cost discussions have been a center-point of Biden’s presidency and a named priority to bring relief to consumers and patients in the U.S.
During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden urged lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle and in both chambers of U.S. Congress to keep Social Security and Medicare off the chopping block for budget debates.
At the University of Tampa, Biden repeated his call to urge pharmaceutical companies to lower costs for consumers, focusing on the number of Americans living with diabetes.
“One in 10 Americans has diabetes, millions need every day insulin to stay alive,” Biden said. “Insulin’s been around for 100 years. Matter of fact, the guy who invented it didn’t patent it because he thought it should be available to everybody.”
Going into the costs of producing the life-saving drug, Biden said it costs about $10 per vial, with $13 total to package it, but “Big Pharma’s been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars more.”
Just as he said during the State of The Union address on Tuesday, Biden said that while legislation had passed to cap out of pocket costs for Americans on Medicare, it was just one step on the path to “getting the job done.”
While highlighting co-pay limits for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, which keep patients from paying more than $35 per month on the life-saving medication, Biden encouraged bipartisan measures to lower those costs for the roughly 34 million U.S. residents living with diabetes.
“We’ve capped the cost of insulin at $35 for seniors on Medicare, but there are millions of Americans not on Medicare, millions, including 200,000 young people with diabetes who need this insulin to save their lives,” Biden said. “Let’s finish the job. Let’s cap insulin at $35 a month for everyone who needs it. We pay more for prescription drugs than any country in the world.”
Biden said the cost Americans pay wasn’t restricted to insulin, but also for the therapies and treatments for cancer patients and chemotherapy. He said as of 2023, those patients will pay no more than $3,500 in a year, and that those costs would be further reduced in 2024.
“No matter how expensive a drug is, the total for the year only has to be $2,000,” Biden said. “And if drug companies raise prices faster than inflation, they’ll have to pay Medicare the difference, they’ll have to pay them back.”
The president said that Medicare had been given the authority to negotiate drug prices, as well as that officials want to make common vaccines such as those for shingles and whooping cough free for all Americans.
Focusing on price negotiations for military service members, Biden said the Veterans Administration had been able to negotiate for veterans, but that Big Pharma had stopped others’ ability to negotiate.
“They’re the only group in the world we can’t negotiate with, couldn’t negotiate with, but now we got it done,” Biden said. “Bringing down prescription drug costs doesn’t just save seniors money, it’ll cut the federal budget by hundreds of billions of dollars.”
He said it would help bring down the federal deficit, which has been a topic of debate and contention since the control of the U.S. House of Representatives shifted to the Republican party, leading to a divided Congress. Discussion and negotiation over the federal debt level, debt ceiling, and deficit spending has remained heated since January.
Biden said should Republican lawmakers in Washington succeed in repealing the Inflation Reduction Act, it would have immediate impacts on Americans, pointing to an $800 per year savings that he said was set within the law.
Referring to an unfair tax system in the United States, Biden repeated his plans to tax the wealthy more to fund programs he intends to help middle-class Americans with, also repeating a promise to veto plans to raise costs of drugs or repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Additionally, he urged states to expand Medicaid to provide more healthcare assistance and coverage options to residents. Biden said Florida was one of just 11 states that have refused.
“Over 1.1 million people in Florida would be eligible for Medicaid if Gov. DeSantis just said ‘I agree to expand it,'” Biden said. “It’s not calculus. But it would also keep rural hospitals open. Why are they closing? All across America. Think about it. I’ll just talk about Florida for just a second. When folks don’t have Medicaid and they come in and they’re poor, they’re rural folks. The hospitals can’t charge them, there’s nobody to charge. There’s no money. They take care of them if they come through the door.”
Biden said eight rural hospitals had closed since 2005 and there are seven currently at risk of closing in Florida. He said that distance from hospitals is directly impacting outcomes.
“The further the distance a hospital is from your home, if you have an accident, the higher the percentage is you’ll die,” Biden said. “Because it takes so long to get there. It’s just a statistic. The only reason Medicare expansion hasn’t happened here is politics. It’s time to get this done.”
He said he didn’t understand, that it wasn’t as if Florida was the poorest state in the country, then referred back to “a spirited debate during the State of the Union.”
Referring to the moment, Biden said “Republicans seemed shocked when I took out the pamphlets they were using about cutting Medicare and Social Security.”
Pointing to Florida’s U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Biden said they “were offended,” referencing that they’d called him a liar during the address, but he reminded them that it was Scott who lead the senate campaigns in the most recent election years, and was the senator who wanted to sunset Social Security and Medicare every five years.
“It’s not likely to get voted out, but I’ll tell you what, it’s likely it’ll get cut drastically if you had to do it every five years,” Biden said. “The very idea that a senator from Florida wants to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every five years…I find to be somewhat outrageous. So outrageous that you might not even believe it.”
Biden then pulled out a copy of Scott’s Rescue America Plan, reading the portion about sunsetting all federal legislation. The president promised to veto the plan if it was voted through, and said that Scott “confirmed that he still likes his proposal.”
The president promised to “defend Social Security and Medicare.” Biden went further, saying that Social Security’s creation had helped pull generations of elderly Americans out of poverty and that the program was a “promise” made.
“Work hard and contribute, and when retirement comes, we’ll help you out,” Biden said. “It’s been a sacred trust, a rock solid guarantee. And it works.”
Going further, Biden said if Republicans’ dreams were to cut Social Security, he was “their nightmare,” joking that he “might already be.”
Scott, a former state governor. Scott’s “Rescue America” plan includes a proposal to sunset Social Security and Medicare, as has been frequently reported over the months since its publication, saying that “If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” The plan has also been under frequent attack by federal officials in the Biden administration.
Scott, not shying away from the plan, instead fired back at the president after the State of the Union, saying that “Joe Biden is confused… to suggest that this means I want to cut Social Security or Medicare is a lie, and is a dishonest move” in a statement Wednesday morning.
Scott also said in his statement that not only should Social Security and Medicare be sunset, but all federal legislation should.
His statement continued, saying the “liberal media covers for them,” and that rather than his plan being a Medicare cut, Biden and Democrats had instead.
“I’ve never advocated cutting Social Security or Medicare and never would. I will not be intimidated by Joe Biden twisting my words, or Chuck Schumer twisting my words – or by anyone else for that matter. HOWEVER, Biden and Democrats did, in fact, cut Medicare just last year,” Scott’s statement continued. “They lie about it and the liberal media covers for them. If they think they can shut me up or intimidate me by lying… I’m here for it… I’m ready to go. I will not be silenced by the Washington establishment.”
The Florida Department of Health puts the number of residents with diabetes north of 2.4 million, as of a 2021 report to the state legislature. The American Diabetes Association said the number was roughly 13% of the overall state population.