Today, several outlets highlighted how President Biden has leveraged the bully pulpit to drive change in the private sector to bring down costs for Americans.
As Politico put it, “Just weeks after Biden used his State of the Union to call for crackdowns on insulin prices and ‘junk fees,’ a handful of companies are starting to comply on their own. They’re taking voluntary steps meant to lower patients’ medical bills and make it easier for families to fly together.”
The Washington Post noted: “On its own, the administration has taken action to make airline pricing more transparent while backing proposed legislation to reduce unexpected consumer charges. But the presidential rhetoric also has delivered results: American Airlines revised its family seating policies last week, prompting Biden to declare victory on Twitter.”
And HuffPost wrote, “All three announcements advance the administration’s long-standing policy goals — to lower prescription drug costs, to expand affordable child care options and to eliminate so-called ‘junk fees’ — in ways Congress has so far been unable to.”
The President’s top economic priority is lowering costs and giving American families a little bit of breathing room. He will continue to implement his competition agenda and use the bully pulpit to spur actions that benefit American consumers, workers, and families.
See coverage below:
Politico: Biden gets a rare hand from Big Business in quest to ease consumer pain
[Adam Cancryn, 3/5/23]
Just weeks after Biden used his State of the Union to call for crackdowns on insulin prices and “junk fees,” a handful of companies are starting to comply on their own. They’re taking voluntary steps meant to lower patients’ medical bills and make it easier for families to fly together.
“The president has made clear for over a year now that a top priority is bringing down costs for folks,” said Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council and one of the officials spearheading the junk fee initiative. “The fact he’s willing to sharply call out certain behavior and highlight it is encouraging these corporations — at least some of them — to come along with us.”
Democrats have long targeted high pharmaceutical prices, driven in large part by surveys showing drug affordability is a top worry for voters on both sides of the aisle. White House economic aides charged with assembling Biden’s “junk fee” agenda, meanwhile, zeroed in on surprise fees that not only affect broader economic competition but are simply the most likely to drive Americans crazy.
“I do a lot of polling, and it’s rare to see policies that have this much universal consensus,” said Danielle Deiseroth, the interim executive director at Data for Progress. The progressive think tank published a post-State of the Union survey pegging voter support for banning such fees — like those tied to concert ticket purchases, hotel stays and seating families together on airplanes — at nearly 80 percent. “Saving people money transcends party lines,” she said.
The airlines’ decisions to be more family friendly came after the Department of Transportation told companies it planned to publish a table showing which carriers charged parents extra to sit with their young kids. Eli Lilly is cutting insulin prices amid sustained scrutiny over the drug’s cost, going as far in its announcement as urging “policymakers, employers and others to join us in making insulin more affordable,” despite resisting such calls from consumer advocates for years until it made financial sense for the company.
HuffPost: Biden’s Bully Pulpit Is Giving Him Wins Congress Couldn’t
[Kevin Robillard, 3/6/23]
On Wednesday, Biden celebrated pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s announcement that it would slash and cap the cost of insulin. Earlier in the week, the Commerce Department announced it would require chipmakers to offer plans for affordable child care to qualify for more than $50 billion in subsidies. And three major airlines responded to Biden’s call in the State of the Union to eliminate fees for parents and children to sit together by doing just that.
All three announcements advance the administration’s long-standing policy goals — to lower prescription drug costs, to expand affordable child care options and to eliminate so-called “junk fees” — in ways Congress has so far been unable to. It shows how the administration is turning to public pressure and regulations to enact its agenda.
“The president’s bully pulpit is a really important tool that he’s using to reduce costs for families in a number of ways,” Bharat Ramamurti, the deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council, told HuffPost in a phone interview. “It’s not meant to substitute for getting things through Congress, or for getting something done in rulemaking.”
Key to the efforts is the underlying popularity of the ideas: Lowering prescription drug costs has long been one of the public’s biggest priorities, and public surveys show Biden’s push against junk fees is broadly popular.
“We pick these issues where there is something fundamentally unfair and unreasonable that is happening, and you shine the presidential spotlight on it,” Ramamurti continued. “The president must have talked about lowering the price of insulin 100 times over the last year and a half as he’s been pushing for this, and this week you saw a pharmaceutical company respond to his call to act.”
The Washington Post: Biden scraps reliance on market for faith in broader government role
[David Lynch and Tony Romm, 3/6/23]
President Biden has embarked upon the most ambitious use of federal economic power in several decades as he seeks to reshape major U.S. industries for long-term prosperity while pressing businesses to deliver immediate benefits for consumers by lowering prices today.
“The bully pulpit is another important tool we have to bring down costs for families,” Ramamurti said.
The latest example came Wednesday, when the pharmaceutical giant Ely Lilly announced it would lower the price of its most widely prescribed insulin by nearly 70 percent after frequent criticism from the president.
As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law last year, Congress capped the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 — but only for seniors on Medicare.
Since then, the president repeatedly has castigated drugmakers. “Big Pharma has been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars — $4 to $500 a month — making record profits,” he said in last month’s State of the Union address.
Last week, Biden took credit for Eli Lilly’s price-cut move and called on other drugmakers to follow.
Eli Lilly chief executive David Ricks acknowledged in an interview that the Inflation Reduction Act served as a “trigger for us,” even though the company had been “working on this for a little while.”
Over the past year, Biden similarly has criticized rental-car companies, airlines, hotels and ticket vendors for what he calls “junk fees.”
On its own, the administration has taken action to make airline pricing more transparent while backing proposed legislation to reduce unexpected consumer charges. But the presidential rhetoric also has delivered results: American Airlines revised its family seating policies last week, prompting Biden to declare victory on Twitter.
“I called for airlines to eliminate family seating fees in my State of the Union — and today, @AmericanAir announced they’re doing just that,” he wrote. “Time for more airlines to follow suit.”
Last May, the president leaned on 20 internet service providers, including AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon, to offer a broadband plan that would be fully covered by a $30-per-month federal subsidy that was included in bipartisan infrastructure legislation adopted in 2021. The move meant many low-income families effectively could secure free broadband access.
“It’s a big deal,” Biden said at a Rose Garden ceremony at the time. “This is a great example of what we can achieve if the federal government and the private sector work together to solve serious problems.”