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Bernie Sanders, Biden share plan to cut ‘outrageous’ health care costs

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden was joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders at the White House Wednesday to highlight the administration’s efforts to lower health care costs for Americans.

The remarks were at an official event, but came as Biden makes cracking down on corporate greed and relieving financial burdens for American families a key pillar of his 2024 reelection campaign.

“You and I have been fighting this for 25 years,” Biden said to Sanders. “Finally, we beat Big Pharma, finally.”

The support from Sanders, Biden’s rival for the Democratic nomination in 2020, comes as Biden faces mounting anger from the party’s progressive wing over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Reporters attempted to shout questions at Biden about Gaza and the Israeli strike that killed World Central Kitchen aid workers in the strip, but he did not take any questions.

Sanders opened his remarks Wednesday by saying Americans are united, regardless of political affiliation, in being “sick and tired of paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

“Here is some good news, despite all of the incredible wealth and political power of the pharmaceutical industry … despite all of that, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress are beginning to make some progress,” the independent senator said.

Among the accomplishments highlighted by Biden and Sanders were the Inflation Reduction Act provisions capping insulin costs at $35 for Medicare patients and out-of-pocket spending on brand-name drugs for Medicare beneficiaries to $2,000 yearly.

They also touted the ability of Medicare, for the first time, to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the price of certain prescription drugs.

“Not one Republican in the entire Congress — it surprised me, I have to admit to you — not one single Republican voted for it,” Biden said of the Inflation Reduction Act. “Not one single one to give us authority to take on and beat Big Pharma.”

He also took several swipes at congressional Republicans and his “predecessor” for their views on Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, the national deficit, abortion access and more. Without saying Donald Trump’s name, he criticized him for his “brags” on striking down Roe v. Wade.

“I promise you with a Democratic Congress, Kamala and I will make Roe v. Wade the law of the land again,” he said. “I promise you.”

Another point of celebration between Biden and Sanders was their work to lower the costs of inhalers. Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension, led the charge in launching an investigation into the prices of the widely used products. Since then, three of the four major companies (GSK, AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim) have limited out-of-pocket costs for their inhalers to $35.

“My impression is that these companies as well as many others in the pharmaceutical industry are beginning to catch onto the fact that the American people are tired of being ripped off and paying astronomical prices for the prescription drugs they need to stay alive or ease their pain,” Sanders said.

Biden noted while Americans were paying as much as $600 for inhalers, the same product and medication were available in the United Kingdom for $49.

“It’s outrageous, but we’re doing something about it finally,” he said.

Still, both Biden and Sanders said more work needs to be done. They advocated for expanding Medicare’s price negotiations to 50 drugs (the first 10 drugs subject to negotiations were unveiled last year) and for capping out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs to $2,000 for all Americans.

“With Bernie’s help we are showing how health care should be a right, not a privilege, in America,” Biden said.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Michelle Stoddart contributed to this report.

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