On Friday, August 26, I attended a Congressional roundtable event with Congresswoman DelBene (CD1) to discuss the state of healthcare for older adults. This event—organized in partnership with AARP Washington, Washington Area Agencies on Aging and Seattle Human Services Department—took place ten days after President Biden signed the historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 into law.
This legislation is historic for many reasons. This bill includes significant investments in clean energy to combat climate change. It imposes a 15 percent tax on corporate profits to ensure the most profitable U.S. companies pay their fair share. It provides a bold blueprint for deficit reduction at a time when U.S. inflation is at a four-decade high. This bill contains hard-won victories for the working class and our planet, including some major policy wins in healthcare.
I believe healthcare is a basic human right and one that is denied to far too many people in this country. The United States routinely ranks last in access and life outcomes at every stage of life (compared to other economically developed nations) despite increased spending of gross domestic product on healthcare costs. Older adults, the uninsured, rural communities, and people of color disproportionally experience systemic barriers to care due to our flawed healthcare system.
The IRA addresses healthcare affordability and accessibility through notable provisions that include:
- Capping insulin copays at $35 a month for Medicare Part D beneficiaries by 2023. An estimated 58,000 Washingtons on Medicare Part D who have struggled with the rising cost of insulin will pay less for life-saving medication.
- Mandating pharmaceutical companies pay Medicare a rebate if drug prices rise faster than inflation. This change will go into effect in 2023 and would further reduce out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
- Capping out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 for Medicare Part D beneficiaries by 2025. An estimated 935,000 Washingtons on Medicare Part D would benefit from this change.
- Granting Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices of certain high-cost prescriptions and implement negotiated prices between 2026 and 2029. An estimated 5 million to 7 million people nationwide on Medicare Parts B and D could see greater savings in their healthcare costs.
- Lowering health insurance premiums for working families through 2025. An estimated 187,000 lower-income Washingtonians without employer-provided insurance could save hundreds of dollars through premium tax credits.
- Building on the Affordable Care Act and expanding coverage for the uninsured through 2025. An estimated 52,000 uninsured Washingtonians will benefit from access to care.
I’m grateful to Congress, especially our King County delegation, for pushing back against corporate special interests and voting with their colleagues in the House and Senate to do right by their constituents.
As I listened to Congresswoman DelBene list what is included in the IRA, I couldn’t help but reflect on where we came from and where we need to go as advocates. Medicare still doesn’t cover dental, vision, or hearing services. Funding for Medicaid home- and community-based services has been flat for decades. Our public health infrastructure needs attention, and our direct care workforce is at crisis levels. Still, I’m humbled by our power.
Lao Tzu once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The victories in the IRA reflect decades of powerful advocacy from people like you. Let’s continue leaning into our power until every one of us can access affordable and quality healthcare in our country.
Interested in joining the Advisory Council? Visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council/ for more information. To apply, click “Join Us” on that page.
Contributor Joe Hailey chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Photo at top of page: Washington, DC: Walking around the Capitol Building, by Eli Duke, accessed 8/25/2022 on Flickr (Creative Commons).
Mark Your Calendars
Following are upcoming events in which ADS Advisory Council members will participate:
- NW Universal Design Council: Tuesday, September 6 (3–4 p.m.). To receive the meeting link, e-mail Dina.Stephens@seattle.gov in advance.
- Conversation with U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal & Adam Smith: Thursday, September 8 (10–11 a.m.)
- ADS Advisory Council: Friday, September 9 (12 noon–2 p.m.). For more information or to request the virtual meeting link, e-mail Sariga.Santhosh@seattle.gov.
- Grandparents Day: Sunday, September 11 (2–3 p.m.). Join this one-hour virtual event hosted by the Mayor’s Council on African American Elders, Northwest African American Museum, Age Friendly Seattle, Aging and Disability Services, and Seattle Human Services.
- Age Friendly Virtual Civic Coffee: Arts and Older Adults: Thursday, September 15 (10:30 a.m.–12 noon). Log on via our Virtual Events webpage or on Facebook. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
- Mayor’s Council on African American Elders: Friday, September 16 (2:00–3:30 p.m.) online only. This month’s meeting will feature a presentation about older Black adults and mental health. Visit the MCAAE webpage for the agenda and link to the meeting. Washington Senior Lobby: Monday, September 19. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.