Biden presses for capping insulin costs and nursing home reforms in first State of the Union

President Joe Biden called for capping out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 a month and setting higher standards under Medicare for nursing homes during his first State of the Union speech.

Biden renewed his call for lowering insulin costs during the speech before both chambers of Congress on Tuesday. While the stalled Build Back Better Act capped insulin costs, it only applied to Medicare beneficiaries.

“Imagine what it’s like to look at your child who needs insulin and have no idea how you’re going to pay for it,” Biden said. “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so everyone can afford it.”

Biden added that drug companies will still do “very well. And, while we’re at it, let Medicare negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, like the [Veterans Affairs] already does.”

He also called for making permanent a major boost to income-based subsidies on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. The American Rescue Plan Act passed last year boosted the subsidies but only through 2022.

The Build Back Better Act would have extended the subsidy boost through 2025, but Biden pressed for going beyond that.

The Build Back Better Act passed the House but has stalled in the Senate over objections from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.

Biden also hinted at new scrutiny on nursing homes, particularly surrounding staffing requirements, saying that as Wall Street has bought out more of the facilities, quality of care has gone down.

A White House fact sheet released late last week called for every nursing home to provide a “sufficient number of staff who are adequately trained to provide high-quality care.”

In addition, any poorly performing nursing homes must be held accountable for improper and unsafe care by being cut off from taxpayer funding, the fact sheet said. The new scrutiny will also make facility ownership more transparent to potential residents.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Tuesday before the speech that it will spearhead the changes but did not provide a timeline on when the regulations will arrive.