As the 2024 campaign gets underway, the Biden administration and House and Senate Democrats are attempting to shift the nation's attention to a policy topic with what they believe to be a winning message – healthcare. From President Biden's promises to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land to capping out-of-pocket drug costs, Democrats are seizing the moment to bring healthcare to the top of voters’ minds.

President Biden teamed up with Senator Sanders (I-VT), Chairman of the HELP Committee who long led the effort to reduce drug prices, and joined him on April 3 at The White House alongside Chris Garcia, a patient advocate who spoke about the struggles of affording treatment. It was a bid to bring awareness to a drug-price campaign ignored by many Americans.

During their remarks discussing ways to lower healthcare costs, particularly prescription drug prices, Sen. Sanders applauded legislative actions supported by Democrats, including expanding the IRA's Drug Price' Negotiation' Program and out-of-pocket cap for seniors. After that, President Biden reiterated proposals to extend the out-of-pocket cap to the commercial market and his intention to cap out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 annually for all Americans, not just seniors. He also criticized the former President and his election opponent, Trump's healthcare policies, while no new announcements were made during the thirty-five-minute event.

S-3's own Michaeleen Crowell, former Chief of Staff to Sen. Bernie Sanders, said “There have been many changes in drug pricing policy that the American people do now know about, and President Biden needs to get the country’s attention to capitalize on this as a winning issue for his reelection. She called this move by the Biden administration “a wise political strategy, as Sanders is the highest-profile Democrat on these healthcare issues and appeals to a different demographic, which is critical to Biden's reelection.”

“As Chairman of the HELP Committee, Sanders has had an aggressive oversight agenda, and has called out pharmaceutical companies by name and in ways the White House cannot. In an election year, the White House is wisely associating itself with Sanders, since there will not be any additional legislation addressing drug prices this Congress.”

In his remarks, Senator Sanders highlighted work by the HELP Committee to launch an investigation into the high cost of inhalers. As a result, three out of the four major inhaler manufacturers agreed to cap the cost of their brand-name inhalers at $35.

S-3 Group’s Martin Reiser, former policy director for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, said he was not surprised President Biden wants to shift attention to healthcare. He noted that Republicans and former President Trump lead in the polls on every significant issue area except healthcare and abortion. “That's why they had several events around the anniversary of the ACA, so The White House event with Sen. Sanders was more of the same,” explained Martin.

"Drug prices are the Democrat's version of populism," said Martin. He also admitted there are challenges, as voters believe drug prices are too high, and Republicans counter that the reason prescription drugs are expensive is because everything is expensive under President Biden. Drug shortages are also a major concern – it is a complicated issue – but beating up Big PHARMA on prices is not the way to alleviate drug shortages.

One thing Michaeleen and Martin agree on is that Medicare price negotiation appears to be here to stay and both parties are running on reducing drug prices, so healthcare companies need to be on their toes and the time is ripe for new policy ideas that balance consumers’ ability to afford lifesaving medications and companies’ incentives to continue to develop them.

About S-3 Group

S-3 Group is an integrated legislative, regulatory, and communications consultancy that helps clients shape policy outcomes and brand reputations. The firm brings together the power of its access, reach, and knowledge with the latest stakeholder engagement methods to create unprecedented influence for its clients. S-3 Group’s bipartisan team of policy, media, digital, grassroots, and political experts work together using the latest data to develop insights and strategies that help clients achieve their objectives.

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