The Department of Health and Human Services will hold a planning session at the end of the month with pharmaceutical companies and state health departments to chart the transition, according to the outlet. The move could result in higher profits for Pfizer and Moderna, which, along with other pharmaceutical companies, have earned more than $79 billion in global sales from COVID shots and treatments.
“We’ve known at some point we’d need to move over into the commercial market, and we’re approaching that time now,” Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dawn O’Connell told The Journal. “We don’t want to do it by fiat.”
Because a shift to the marketplace will lead to insurers negotiating with manufacturers to determine prices, costs for COVID treatments will likely increase as insurance premiums rise. Meanwhile, roughly 31.6 million Americans do not have health insurance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The White House requested $22.5 billion in new funds for COVID treatments in March. Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Shalanda Young contended in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that a lack of funding would leave the nation “unequipped to deal with a future surge,” especially with regard to variant-specific booster shots.
Republicans, however, noted that billions of dollars from past stimulus packages remained unspent. “The American people need an accounting on how much is left,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) argued. “Let’s spend that first before we start borrowing more.”
The report comes days after President Joe Biden lambasted Republican lawmakers for voting against provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act meant to reduce certain medical costs.
“Every single Republican in Congress voted against this bill. Every single Republican in Congress voted against lowering prescription drug prices, against lowering healthcare costs, against a fairer tax system,” Biden said at a Tuesday bill signing. “Every single Republican — every single one — voted against tackling the climate crisis, against lowering our energy costs, against creating good-paying jobs.”
Biden likewise took credit for a law passed under President Donald Trump that made hearing aids available over the counter.
“For millions of Americans, hearing aids and the doctor’s visit to get them prescribed are too expensive,” Biden said in a statement. “In the executive order I issued last year to increase competition in key industries and lower costs, I called on the FDA to finally make hearing aids available over the counter.”
The new policy, however, was initially crafted by the 2017 Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act and implemented after the Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule on the legislation.
“Reducing health care costs in America has been a priority of mine since Day One and this rule is expected to help us achieve quality, affordable health care access for millions of Americans in need,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra added. “Today’s action by the FDA represents a significant milestone in making hearing aids more cost-effective and accessible.”