Proponents of the newly signed Inflation Reduction Act cheered yesterday as President Biden made the heavily debated bill a law. Climate activists, healthcare advocates, and leading economists praised the legislation for its ability to positively affect the pockets of millions of Americans.
What the President signed into law is a measure that the Administration says will reduce prescription drug costs for Americans, make health care insurance more affordable, and lower energy costs, while simultaneously making the tax code fairer. The law has also made one of the largest investments in climate investments possible. “It really completes the trio of President Biden's signature efforts in economics, which is to make investments in our economy to ensure that we have better economic growth going forward and that that growth is more actually shared,” Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers tells EBONY in the hours leading up to the act’s signing. “And this has a significant effect on Black communities.”
Rouse highlights that prescription drug costs are a very big problem for Black seniors. Black Medicare beneficiaries are roughly one-and-a-half times as likely as white beneficiaries to have trouble affording medications. They are also twice as likely to not fill their prescriptions due to cost. The Inflation Reduction Act will cap the amount that seniors have to pay for prescription drugs at the pharmacy at $2,000 a year. “So it gives them the peace of mind that they will no longer have to worry about having a very large surprise bill when getting the drugs they so desperately need,” Rouse says.
The law also caps the amount that seniors will have to pay for insulin at $35 a month from the U.S. supply. Black adults in the U.S. are 60 percent more likely than white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes and need this life-saving medication. It will also allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs for high-priced drugs. Additionally, it lowers health insurance premiums and expands coverage throughout the nation.
“About 3.9 million Black Americans were uninsured in 2019 before President Biden took office,” Rouse points out. “And we know that about 570,000—almost 600,000 Black people fell into the Medicaid coverage gap which meant they were locked out of coverage because their state didn't expand Medicaid.” This expansion allows those Americans to continue paying lower premiums, ensuring that they have greater access to health insurance.
“Without the Inflation Reduction Act, coverage would have become much less affordable for many consumers in 2023,” says Louise Norris, health policy analyst for healthinsurance.org. “Open enrollment for 2023 health coverage will start on November 1. With this new law, most marketplace enrollees should expect to see the same general level of affordability for 2023 that they had in 2022. But it will still be important to actively compare the available plans during open enrollment, as we’ll still see the normal annual fluctuations in available plans, subsidy amounts and after-subsidy premiums.”
The law is also a big win for the climate. Many homes across the country struggle with energy efficiency. This means renters and homeowners are forced to pay even more in energy costs. The IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) provides grants to help with home improvements that will improve efficiency within the home. It also provides grants and tax credits to help people buy more energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling units that will lower energy costs.
In March, a report by the American Lung Association made a strong case for zero-emission vehicles by the year 2040. The report outlines the broad benefits of the transition to a zero-emission transportation, particularly for Black communities that are particularly susceptible to air pollution. The IRA will provide tax credits for electric vehicles EVs for those who are ready to make the switch to electric vehicles. The law pairs with the bipartisan infrastructure law that the President signed several months ago, which enables the building out of some of the infrastructure for electric vehicles. “It helps us make that important transition from fossil fuel burning vehicles to electric vehicles,” says Rouse. “All of the investments in this bill will help the President reach climate goals that are so important to our communities.”