Posts tagged with "State of the Union address"

Eli Lilly to cut prices of insulin drugs by 70%, cap patient costs at $35

March 2, 2023

Eli Lilly—facing pressure to curb diabetes-treatment costswill cut the list prices for its most commonly prescribed insulin products by 70% and take other steps to make it easier for patients to afford the drugs, reports The Wall Street Journal.

On Wednesday, March 1, the Indianapolis-based company announced that the 70% price cuts will take effect in the fourth quarter for Humalog and Humulin, its two biggest-selling insulin products.

The company also said that on May 1 it would reduce the list price of an unbranded insulin it sells to $25 a vial from $82 a vial—the lowest level for any insulin that diabetes patients take around mealtimes, and less than Lilly’s list price for a Humalog vial in 1999. And it plans to improve a program capping patients’ out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month.

“The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes,” said Lilly Chief Executive David Ricks.

Drugmakers—including Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi—substantially raised the prices for their insulin products during the 2010s. Now, the products cost hundreds of dollars a month. Humalog currently has a list price of $530 for a five-pack of injection pens and $274 for a vial; although Lilly said most people with commercial insurance and Medicare pay no more than $95 a month.

The manufacturers have said that, while list prices increased, they have had to pay larger rebates to companies that manage drug benefits.

Yet, because of the high prices, people without insurance or with high-deductible health plans can have trouble affording the products—forcing them to ration use.

To ease the burden, some U.S. states have enacted insulin-cost caps in recent years. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act mandated that patients covered by the federal Medicare health-insurance program should pay no more than $35 a month in copays or other out-of-pocket costs for an insulin prescription.

In his State of the Union address in February, President Joe Biden called for that $35 monthly cap to be expanded beyond Medicare to include every diabetes patient.

In addition to reducing the list prices for its top-selling insulins, Lilly said it would introduce on April 1 a new insulin, named Rezvoglar, that is a copycat version of Sanofi’s Lantus insulin. Lilly will list its price at $92 for a five-pack of injection pens, a 78% discount to the list price for Lantus.

The company said it would make improvements to its program, introduced in 2020, to cap insulin out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month. Participating pharmacies will now implement that cap automatically when people with commercial insurance fill their prescriptions, rather than requiring people to present a Lilly savings card.

People without insurance can continue to cap monthly costs at $35 for Lilly insulin products by using a savings card that can be downloaded immediately online, the company said.

Research contact: @WSJ

United says it will make it easier for families to book seats with their children for free

February 22, 2023

United Airlines announced on Monday, February 20, that new technology will open up more seats on its flights so children can sit with an adult in their party without paying a fee—a type of charge that’s drawn scrutiny from the Biden Administration in recent months, reports NBC News.

United will give parents or other adult travelers accompanying a child younger than 12 access to “preferred” seats as well as regular economy seats, if needed, at the time of booking so they can sit together.

The change applies to travelers with standard and basic economy tickets and will be fully in effect next month, although United has already increased some of the seat availability.

The airline also won’t charge customers a fare difference if they switch to a flight to the same destination that has adjacent seats.

Airlines in recent years have been charging travelers to book “preferred” location seats on flights. They don’t come with extra legroom or other perks but are often in front of the plane, though they can cover a significant number of seats of an aircraft.

President Joe Biden has called on lawmakers to “fast-track the ban on family seating fees,” the White House said earlier this month. In July, the Transportation Department told U.S. airlines to “do everything in their power” to ensure that travelers under age 13 are seated next to an accompanying adult without additional charges.

“Baggage fees are bad enough,” Biden said during his State of the Union address earlier this month. “Airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage.”

Such seats usually vary in price. On a roundtrip between Newark, New Jersey, and Los Angeles in August, preferred seats on a United flight showed as $37 each way for one person.

Delta Air Lines said it blocks certain rows of seats so families can sit together. “Delta does not charge family seating fees and, regardless of the ticket class purchased, will always work with customers on a case-by-case basis to ensure their family seating needs are met,” a spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

American Airlines’ booking platform will automatically search for available seats together at the time of booking for main cabin and basic economy passengers. Preferred seats and its extra legroom section, Main Cabin Extra, open up the day of departure if they’re needed, a spokesperson told CNBC.

Research contact: @NBCNews

In State of the Union address, Biden mixes bipartisanship with defiance

February 9, 2023

President Joe Biden, facing a vocal and divided Congress, used his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 7, to emphasize popular ideas from job creation to healthcare—aiming to throw Republicans on the defensive and pitch himself as a friend of ordinary Americans, reports The Washington Post.

In a speech that foreshadowed his potential 2024 campaign message, Biden defended his record, made a direct appeal to blue-collar workers, and sought to shift voter attitudes about the economy by touting his administration’s massive investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

Alternating between calls for Republicans to unify with Democrats and condemnation of the GOP’s least popular policies, Biden showcased both the potential for future cooperation and the likelihood of nasty partisan fights over the next two years.

“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well,” Biden said. “The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict gets us nowhere.”

That remark was met with applause, but the comity quickly gave way to acrimony as GOP lawmakers began interrupting the president with shouts of opposition. The break in decorum came as Republicans took exception to Biden’s remarks on issues ranging from the fentanyl crisis to the national debt—and he often fired back.

The speech—taking place just weeks before Biden’s expected announcement that he will seek reelection—was widely viewed as a soft launch for a campaign for a second term. Adding to the tension of the moment was a looming partisan fight over the debt limit and the approach of the one-year mark of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Biden presented himself as an elder statesman capable of working across the aisle while also cutting the figure of a shrewd politician with strongly held beliefs. He outlined areas for potential bipartisanship—including technology, health care and foreign policy—but sharply rejected Republican proposals on issues ranging from immigration to taxes to Social Security and Medicare.

He adopted “Let’s finish the job” as a mantra, a phrase that seemed designed to temper his triumphant declarations with a recognition that many Americans remain anxious and are far from feeling secure or prosperous.

And he sought to shape a political message of empathy and help for ordinary Americans: “Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible. Maybe that’s you, watching at home,” Biden said. “You remember the jobs that went away, and you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it.”

The night’s most unexpected drama was a back-and-forth between speaker and audience that is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented in a presidential address to Congress. When Biden began decrying the opioid crisis, GOP lawmakers shouted back about the border.

When he noted disapprovingly that some lawmakers want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, some Republicans cheered. Biden ad-libbed dryly, “As a coach of mine used to say, ‘Good luck in your senior year.’”

When Biden said the Trump Administration was responsible for nearly 25% of the national debt, GOP lawmakers protested vocally; Biden responded: “Check it out. Check it out.”

But the most forceful Republican response, a cascade of boos and denials, came when Biden said that some Republicans want to cut Medicare and Social Security. Several Republicans shouted loudly enough to interrupt Biden’s speech, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who exclaimed “Liar!”

The president responded by professing surprise that they had changed their position and now liked those programs, saying, “I enjoy conversion.” Adding that he would veto any effort to cut Social Security and Medicare, he added wryly, “But apparently it’s not going to be a problem.”

Greene shouted interruptions during Biden’s speech several times. When Biden addressed U.S. competition with China, she shouted, “China’s spying on us!” That prompted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) to try to shush her from behind the dais.

With Republicans planning to use their majority to frustrate much of Biden’s agenda, many of the proposals Biden endorsed on Tuesday night were unlikely to be realized over the next two years, the Post said. In effect, he was using the biggest stage of his presidency as an opportunity to sell his vision, his record and his agenda heading toward the 2024 election.

From the record pace of job creation to growth in the manufacturing sector, to new semiconductor plants and infrastructure projects, Biden presented a broadly optimistic view.

“Two years ago the economy was reeling,” he said. “I stand here tonight, after we’ve created, with the help of many people in this room, 12 million new jobs—more jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years.”

And in a speech to a chamber with dozens of lawmakers who have questioned the legitimacy of American elections, he described the country’s democracy as “bruised” but “unbowed and unbroken” in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Biden also proposed extending some of his more popular achievements. He called for Congress to pass a provision that would cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month in the private insurance market. Congressional Democrats and the administration tried to pass such a measure last year, but it was modified to apply only to people on Medicare, the health insurance program for seniors, after objections from Senate Republicans.

The expanded proposal is highly unlikely to gain traction among Republican lawmakers despite its popularity across party lines. But White House officials are seeking to use the issue to hammer Republicans for blocking action to lower Americans’ health-care costs.

Biden also addressed the alleged Chinese spy balloon that flew across much of the continental United States last week before a U.S. military aircraft shot it down over the Atlantic coast on Saturday, February 4. Biden said he has made clear to Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States seeks competition with Beijing rather than conflict, but added, “I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America strong.”

He also reiterated his oft-stated view that China is the biggest long-term threat to American interests. “Make no mistake about it: As we made clear last week, if China’s threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country,” he said. “And we did.”

The president then touted the bipartisan infrastructure law, another part of the speech that invited bipartisan applause:

“To my Republican friends who voted against it but still ask to fund projects in their districts, don’t worry. I promised to be the president for all Americans,” Biden said. “We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the groundbreaking.”

Biden also announced new standards to require construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in the United States, which prompted a standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans, including McCarthy.

Biden also took on the war in Ukraine, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade the country last February “a test for the ages.” He sought to emphasize why the United States should be committed to the war effort “as long as it takes” at a time when Republicans are showing more wariness about the amount of aid the United States is sending.

The president also addressed the spate of gun violence that has rocked several communities, with dozens of mass shootings already this year. Biden reiterated his call for a federal ban on assault weapons Tuesday, although Republican lawmakers have said such a bill is a nonstarter.

One of first lady Jill Biden’s guests at the event was 26-year-old Brandon Tsay, who disarmed a man who is accused of killing 11 people in Monterey Park, California, last month. Tsay was among several guests recognized by the president, who called on Congress to go beyond praise for the young man and take action to reduce gun violence.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Pelosi literally rips into Trump’s SOTU address

February 6, 2020

For 80 minutes on February 4, President Donald Trump delivered a State of the Union address that featured a “highlight reel of his presidency,” with a few reality show twists thrown in—including awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh; and introducing a Kansas-born toddler and her mother as the faces of his anti-abortion campaign.

The pageantry enthralled Republicans, who lavished Trump with praise; and disgusted most Democrats, who hissed and booed, later calling Trump’s speech a disgrace, according to a report by Politico.

Indeed, the political news outlet revealed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped into President Donald Trump in a private meeting with Democrats the next day.

Addressing her caucus Wednesday morning, said she felt “liberated” after defiantly ripping up Trump’s speech for the world to see, tearing up each page as she stood behind the president after he concluded his annual address.

 “He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech,” Pelosi told House Democrats, according to multiple sources in the room. “What we heard last night was a disgrace.”

Democrats gave Pelosi a standing ovation after she concluded her remarks, coming just hours before the Senate will vote to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial. The California Democrat then went on to salute all seven House impeachment managers by name, according to attendees.

“She said that he disgraced the House of Representatives by using it as a backdrop for a reality show,” Representative John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) told the press when he left the meeting.

Pelosi’s remarks follow the latest turn in the long-running feud between the two party leaders, which played out during Trump’s annual address in front of the Congress and millions of viewers.

Speaking to the caucus, some Democrats said Pelosi appeared distraught and frustrated by Trump’s speech. Pelosi specifically called out Trump’s decision to award the divisive conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the middle of the speech.

“He dishonored the State of the Union as an institutional practice,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia). “It was kind of outright pandering to his base. It was just a disgraceful display.”

House Republican leaders were quick to condemn Pelosi —calling her late-night response a petty tantrum. Trump himself weighed in in his own way, rapidly re-tweeting more than a dozen people criticizing Pelosi’s actions, many with the hashtag “#PelosiTantrum” on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, the speaker’s top lieutenants were quick to come to her defense.

“As far as I’m concerned, a shredder wasn’t available, so she did what she needed to do,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York.) told reporters after the caucus meeting.

Research contact: @politico

Who do you trust? Trump claims a wall made El Paso safe; Mayor Margo disagrees

February 12, 2019

As President Donald Trump confirmed plans for a Monday night rally in El Paso, Texas, the city’s mayor, Dee Margo, asserted that the lower incidence of crime that the area has enjoyed in recent years has not been the direct result of fencing at the southern border.

The president is expected to exhort his base for a wall at what amounts to a major campaign event—being held just days ahead of the deadline for Congress to hammer out a deal on the budget and border security, NBC News reported on February 11.

“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime—one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities,” Trump said in his State of the Union Address on February 6 “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”

But the statistics don’t back him up. Mayor Margo notes. According to law enforcement data, the city had low crime rates well before a border barrier was constructed between 2008 and mid-2009.

Indeed, NBC News reports, violent crime has been dropping in El Paso since its modern-day peak in 1993 and was at historic lows before a fence was authorized by Congress in 2006. Violent crime actually ticked up during the border fence’s construction and after its completion, according to police data collected by the FBI.

Democratic officials immediately took issue with the picture Trump painted, saying the president was using their city to justify a pointless and unnecessary wall.

“The facts are clear. While it is true that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the nation, it has never been ‘…considered one of our Nation’s most dangerous cities,'” the city’s sheriff, Richard Wiles, a Democrat, said in a statement after Trump concluded his address. “And, El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built.”

“I believe he was given some misinformation,” Mayor Margo told CNN in an interview, adding the idea that El Paso was a lawless and dangerous place before fencing was built is “not factually correct.”

Margo said he’d correct the president if he reiterated falsehoods about El Paso on Monday. “The geography of Texas won’t allow a fence from El Paso to Brownsville even if you wanted to do it,” Margo said.

When pressed on the inaccuracy of the president’s claims, the White House said the high rate of crime in the city directly across the border—Juarez—proved that the barrier was responsible for the low crime rate in El Paso.

Research contact: @janestreet

2020 Democratic contenders take Trump to task with State of the Union guests

February 6, 2019

Democratic 2020 contenders are using President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union Address on February 5 to “put a human face” on their points of contention with the current administration, CNN reports.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is bringing a decorated transgender Navy member to the House chambers to view the speech. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has invited a labor leader recently furloughed from his job at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And California Senator. Kamala Harris will attend along with a woman who lost her home in a wildfire.

Gillibrand’s guest is Blake Dremann, a transgender Navy lieutenant commander who has been deployed 11 times. The invitation comes after the Supreme Court allowed Trump’s ban on transgender military service to go into effect.

Gillibrand, who battled the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, told CNN that she will introduce legislation in the Senate later this week that would protect transgender Americans’ ability to serve in the military.

Transgender service members like Lieutenant Commander Dremann make extraordinary sacrifices every day to defend our freedom and our most sacred values, and President Trump’s decision to ban them from military service is cruel and undermines our military readiness,” she said in a statement on her official website.

Harris invited Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, whose home was destroyed in the Thomas wildfire that ravaged Southern California last year. What’s more, during a year of adversities, Pesiri-Dybvik and her husband both work for air traffic control and were furloughed during the government shutdown this year, Harris said.

“Trisha’s story is just one of many stories I heard during the shutdown of Americans whose lives were upended and who faced those difficult days with strength and resilience,” Harris said in a statement on her own Senate website. “Washington needs to hear her story and avoid another harmful shutdown.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s guest is Sajid Shahriar, a HUD staffer and labor leader with roles in both the local American Federation of Government Employees and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

“It’s time to send a message to President Trump and Senate Republicans: federal and contract workers are the backbone of our economy and their livelihoods should never be used as pawns in Republican political games,” Warren said her February 4 statement.

Others considering presidential runs are also using the State of the Union to advance their political priorities.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is taking aim at prescription drug costs, she said on February 1. Her guest is Nicole Smith-Holt, the mother of Alec Raeshawn Smith, a Type 1 diabetic who died from diabetic ketoacidosis because he couldn’t afford his $1,300-a-month insulin prescription.

Highlighting his advocacy for gun control, California Representative Eric Swalwell invited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and gun reform activist Cameron Kasky.

One of the sharpest critics of the Trump administration’s family separations at the US-Mexico border, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, invited mother and daughter Albertina Contreras Teletor and Yakelin Garcia Contreras, age 12, who were separated at the southern border last spring.

This child separation policy came from a dark and evil place within the heart of this administration,” said Merkley in a statement on his official website. “Innocent children suffered because of deeds that were carried out in our names and using our tax dollars as Americans. I’m bringing Albertina and Yakelin as my guests to the State of the Union because we need to bear witness to the suffering that this cruel policy inflicted, and resolve to make sure that nothing like this ever happens in the United States of America again.” 

Research contact: @ericbradner

Pelosi: ‘State of the Union’ should be delayed due to lack of security during government shutdown

January 17, 2019

In a January 16 letter to President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) suggested that the State of the Union address, scheduled for January 29, should be postponed, due to security concerns caused by the partial government shutdown.

The annual statement—which covers the accomplishment and challenges of the current administration and is delivered by the president—is classified as a National Security Event under Public Law 106-544, passed in December 2000. Under that legislation, the U.S. Secret Service is designated as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and implementing security for the speech.

While the president is not required to deliver the information as a speech, every POTUS since Woodrow Wilson, except Herbert Hoover, has done so, in front of a joint session of Congress. Prior to that time, most presidents delivered the annual communication as a written report.

“Both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now—with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” Pelosi noted.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week,” she said, “I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th

The suggestion, which, The Washington Post reported, could deny Trump an opportunity to make his case for border-wall funding in a prime-time televised address, came as White House officials were urgently lobbying Republican senators against signing a bipartisan letter that would urge an end to a shutdown.

The White House had no immediate response.

According to the same Post report, Pelosi later told reporters that the letter was intended as a suggestion and that she was not rescinding the invitation for Trump to speak. “He can make it from the Oval Office if he wants,” she added.

Research contact: @SpeakerPelosi

Public doesn’t fully support protectionist tariffs

February 6, 2018

Many Americans are not convinced that tariffs on imported goods protect American jobs, based on findings of an Economist/YouGov poll released on February 2. Overall, 31% think they do protect jobs; 26% think they don’t; and 42 percent don’t know for sure.

However, the pollsters say, findings are split along political lines: While 55% of Republicans are “bullish” on tariffs; only 28% of Independents agree—as well as a mere 18% of Democrats.

Specifically, Republicans are more likely than others to favor imposing tariffs in order to protect US businesses and workers from unfair foreign trade and labor practices, while Democrats are more likely than others to support tariffs to protect the environment and to stop human rights abuses of foreign workers. Republicans also are more likely to accept tariffs as punishments against countries that impose tariffs on US goods.
So when it comes to a possible tariff related trade-off between protecting jobs and keeping prices low, Americans come down—narrowly—on the side of jobs; with 37% favoring such a policy, and 32% opposing it. Just under  one-third aren’t sure. Republicans favor tariffs—even if it means higher prices by—nearly three to one.

The President’s position is clear: In his State of the Union address on January 30, Trump referred to “decades of unfair trade deals” and declared “the era of economic surrender is over.”

Republicans favor the two tariffs President Trump has just imposed on washing machines and on solar panels, although skepticism is high among the public in general. Just 24% nationally think the tariff on foreign-made solar panels will increase American jobs, and 26% think the tariff on foreign-made washing machines will increase jobs. More think American jobs installing solar panels will decrease than increase. Americans as a group expect prices for washing machines will rise—and more think all washing machine prices will go up than think it will only be prices on foreign-made products.

In declaring his “America first” policy, the President has spoken and tweeted about respect for the United States in the world, noting that he believes the country is becoming more respected. Americans are not yet sure that has happened, or that it will happen by the end of the President’s first term in office. A majority say that the country is less respected now than it has been in the past, including just under a third of Republicans.

Research contact: