Thanks to the work of President Biden and Democrats in Congress, seniors are finally starting to get the lower drug costs they deserve. One year after the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), provisions aimed at lowering prescription drug and health coverage costs for millions of people in America are going into effect. 

The Latino Coalition of Los Angeles (LCLA) wants to voice our strong support for the historic changes that are already driving down health care costs. We applaud President Biden’s recent initiatives particularly for their impact on low-income communities and communities of color who depend on free or low-cost health insurance and will also be more likely to visit their providers given the reduction in costs. 

Nearly 50% of Los Angeles’s population is Latino, and 18.5% of all Latino families in the United States live in Los Angeles County. This sensible and humane legislation brings us closer to bridging the gap in health disparities so deeply rooted right here at home. 

One-quarter of Latinos with a chronic health condition are uninsured, according to Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. 

Latinos also are aging. In 2019, Latinos made up 9% of the older population but by 2060 it is projected to grow to 21%, according to the Administration for Community Living.

The law lowers health care premiums for people who buy their own coverage by $2,400 on average, caps insulin costs for people on Medicare, and penalizes drug companies for egregious price hikes — all of which will significantly help low-income Californians. The reduction in health coverage costs alone will save Californian families earning less than $53,000 a year approximately $81 a month, and that’s just the beginning. 

Seniors’ drug costs will soon be capped at $2,000 annually and Medicare will finally be able to negotiate lower drug prices with drugmakers. Last month, the Biden administration announced which 10 drugs — some of the most expensive in the U.S. — were selected for the first round of price negotiations.

Nationally, nearly 19 million seniors and others on Medicare will save approximately $400 annually thanks to this legislation, and the pharmaceutical industry finally has an important check on their power.

“For far too long, pharmaceutical companies have made record profits while American families were saddled with record prices and unable to afford life-saving prescription drugs. But thanks to the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, we are closer to reaching President Biden’s goal of increasing availability and lowering prescription drug costs for all Americans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “Although drug companies are attempting to block Medicare from being able to negotiate for better drug prices, we will not be deterred. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue working to ensure that Americans with Medicare have access to innovative, life-saving treatments at lower costs.”

The Inflation Reducation Act also addresses public health-related environmental threats to low-income communities and communities of color. It implemented environmental justice block grants — a program to alleviate the harm caused by the polluted air that disproportionately afflicts so many under-served neighborhoods in L.A. The grants fund the installation of air-quality sensors to monitor methane and wood heater emissions in disadvantaged neighborhoods and schools. The act will also strengthen our infrastructure and economy against natural disasters and extreme weather events by addressing housing insecurity and transportation safety. As a nonprofit social welfare organization, the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles commends the IRA’s public health victories that will improve health and quality of life for the community we serve and all Angelinos.

Unfortunately, big drug companies and their Republican allies in Congress are set on sabotaging this monumental progress in order to protect an outrageous policy platform that prioritizes profits over people. After spending more than $100 million on lobbying to kill the IRA, drug companies unsuccessfully sued the federal government to once again bar Medicare from negotiating drug prices. While Americans are cutting pills and skipping doses, drug companies — who charge us up to four times more for drugs than people in other industrialized countries — went to court to defend overcharging seniors and having taxpayers pad their sky-high profits. 

In Congress too, the fight continues. Republicans unanimously opposed the Inflation Reduction Act. Now they are ramping up their war on health care by introducing legislation to repeal the IRA’s measures to lower prescription drug costs. Republicans in Congress are also introducing plans to slash Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. They recently passed a bill to promote junk health insurance plans that can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. 

Everyone in Los Angeles depends on quality, affordable health care to live healthy, productive lives, and the Inflation Reduction Act is a historic step forward to achieving those goals. For the Latino community specifically, this law will provide a modicum of economic stability, improved health care and a cleaner environment for our children and families. While additional efforts are needed to address the intersectionality of individuals’ social determinants and their quality of care, this law is a stepping-stone toward improving health outcomes within the Latino community in Los Angeles. Despite deep-pocketed resistance from drug manufacturers and Congressional Republicans, Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers have delivered a key victory in public healthcare policy at a national scale and ultimately, at a community level for Los Angeles.

Jessica Nunez is a first-generation college student who graduated from UCLA with a double major in Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. Nunez is strongly passionate about the intersection...