Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

How Biden's big bill aims to lower drug costs

Plus, the water wars have already begun.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 9, 2022
Landmark legislation, privatization push, low relief, Scranton sentiment, tax cutters, and remembering David McCullough. It's Tuesday. 

A sweeping $740 billion tax, climate, and health care bill passed by Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Sunday could lead to cheaper medications for Pennsylvanians if it's passed by the U.S. House and signed into law.

In a piece focused on the health care implications of The Inflation Reduction Act, the Post-Gazette examines the drug-pricing details

  • The bill would cap insulin costs at $35 monthly for Medicare enrollees. 
  • It would continue enhanced tax credits for Affordable Care Act health insurance plans, "a measure that could matter to the roughly 400,000 Pennsylvanians who are covered through the state's health insurance marketplace," the Post-Gazette explains. 
  • Out-of-pocket drug spending by Medicare recipients would be capped at $2,000 annually; there is no cap now. Medicare would also be allowed to negotiate drug prices for "10 high-cost and biologic Medicare Part D drugs," a move that's expected to translate to consumer savings
  • Also included: A measure to permanently extend an excise tax on domestic coal that funds health benefits and stipends for miners with black lung disease or the spouses who are left behind.

THE CONTEXT: Sunday's party-line vote split Pa.'s two senators.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) voted yes. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) voted no. Vice President Kamala Harris was the deciding vote.

Toomey also joined 42 other GOP senators who voted against an effort to extend the $35 insulin cap to those with private insurance as well. Republicans cited procedural, not policy objections.

(While states like Delaware and New York place their own limits on insulin copays, the Post-Gazette reports Pennsylvania does not.)

The bill — a pared-down version of President Joe Biden's scuttled Build Back Better Act — is headed to the Democrat-controlled U.S. House.

As for inflation: Economists told Vox that the average American likely won’t feel the impact immediately or particularly significantly — "its effect will be in a longer-term and macroeconomic sense," the outlet explained.

The legislation also earmarks $369 billion for energy security and fighting climate change, $300 billion to pay down federal deficits, and includes new taxes on corporations (but not private-equity firms) to help pay for it.

"There is a lot of potential there if they can make a sustained argument that John Fetterman is not who he says he is."

—Republican strategist Peter Towey on the party's attempt to undercut Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman's blue-collar image; Fetterman is set to return to the campaign trail on Friday in Erie


» TALK OF THE TOWN: On Friday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. ET, meet our new State College regional bureau team, get an inside look at what we're investigating, and tell us how we can better connect with you. RSVP here. Tell us what you want to know about the bureau at events@spotlightpa.org

A bluebird deep in thought, via @mar_sees_lifeSend us your Pennsylvania photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
WATER WARS: Lobbyists for private water companies that are looking to acquire more publicly owned utilities in Pennsylvania — often leading to higher bills for consumers — spend so much time at the state capitol "that they have become part of the furniture," The Nation reports. Meanwhile, a bill that "big water" executives say could help them acquire more systems is slowly advancing in Harrisburg.

VANISHING AID: Emergency rent aid is running out in Lehigh County as rents surge. The Morning Call (paywalled) reports the agency in charge of administering the aid there says it has 1,500 applications still in the queue and not enough money for them, let alone any more. According to Rent.com, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Allentown is almost $2,000, a 38% increase from last year.

HOME BASE: Joe Biden's hometown of Scranton has struggled during his presidency. While the city has exited the state's program for financially distressed municipalities after decades, Scranton and its residents are feeling the same economic pressure as counterparts nationwide. But the Washington Post (paywalled) found people in Scranton don't blame Biden, saying the trouble started long ago.

CORPORATE CUT: Pennsylvania lawmakers and Gov. Wolf included a cut to the state's corporate tax rate in the 2022-2023 budget, which Wolf signed into law last month. Both of the candidates now running to replace Wolf — GOP nominee Doug Mastriano and Democrat Josh Shapiro — want to make the cut even deeper, The Inquirer reports (paywall). It's one of the few areas of agreement between the two.

NEW MONEY: Pennsylvania's lowest-funded school districts will start the new school year with millions of dollars in additional state funding. WITF examines how the districts plan to spend the extra $225 million set aside for them in the latest state budget: everything from mental health services, extracurriculars, to the return of home ec. Roughly a fifth of the state's 500 public school districts qualified for the boost.

IN MEMORIAM: Historian, best-selling author, and Pittsburgh native David McCullough has died at the age of 89, the AP reports. Pittsburgh's 16th Street Bridge was renamed in his honor in 2013. McCullough's first book was written about the Johnstown Flood and published in 1968.

STUMP STOP: Florida governor and rumored 2024 presidential aspirant Ron DeSantis is headed to Pennsylvania. DeSantis will campaign for Pennsylvania's GOP nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, in Pittsburgh — at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center — on Aug. 19, per PoliticsPA.

OPEN CALL: Most of the people portraying Native Americans at the annual French and Indian War reenactment in Penn Township, Westmoreland County can't trace their roots to any indigenous tribe. TribLIVE reports that led to a complaint to state officials, who asked that the event be canceled.

ROSE Q&A: Pete Rose was honored by the Phillies on Sunday. Asked about a statutory rape accusation that led to the scrapping of a similar nod in 2017, Rose told The Inquirer's Alex Coffey: "It was 55 years ago, babe."  

FOOD PREP: The Mechanicsburg-based grocery chain Karns Foods is responding to recession fears by adjusting its stock and dropping some higher-end products, per a paywalled Wall Street Journal article.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

*This week's theme: Newspapers
Yesterday's answer: Broadsheet

Congrats to our daily winners: Starr B., Elaine C., Vicki U., Becky C., Michelle T., Don H., Mike B., Craig W., Susan D., Doris T., George S., Susan N.-Z., James B., Jude M., David W., Joel S., Patricia M., Bill S., Dianne K., Nancy S., Stanley J., Jane R., Kimberly D., and Irene R.


Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.