Although Sen. Joe Manchin has infuriated fellow Democrats by preventing passage of President Joe Biden's broader domestic social agenda, the West Virginian's stance has forced them to weigh the desirability of focusing on health costs and coverage heading into the midterms, Axios reported on Monday.
Some in the party say that their chances in the elections this November would improve significantly if they can make a deal with Manchin on drug price reforms while avoiding an increase in the uninsured rate, even if it meant giving up on the chance to pass a much bigger package that increases corporate taxes and invests hundreds of billions in clean energy.
Even with some Democrats, especially those on the progressive wing, frustrated with that approach, Jared Bernstein of President Joe Biden's Council of Economic Advisers told "Fox News Sunday" that focusing on drug pricing and coverage reforms could be a rallying point to slow inflation, and "We should do that tomorrow."
Manchin insisted last week that he is willing to vote for a deal on drug pricing he has been discussing with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as a two-year extension of enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies that will expire at the end of this year, Axios reported, stressing that these items are connected to two major parts of Biden's health care agenda, which has been frozen in Congress.
Biden has urged Democrats to take the deal, insisting it would provide financial relief to millions of Americans.
Although the compromise would leave out dealing with other priorities, such as capping the cost of insulin, Democrat strategist Dan Sena told The Washington Post it would be absurd to backslide on health coverage, especially with the party planning to run on women's health in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's dismantling of Roe v. Wade's abortion rights.
Sena added that the party would also be able to say it did something about higher prescription drug prices, by having Medicare directly negotiate with manufacturers, capping premium growth and making other changes.
Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman wrote on Twitter that "Manchin's offer may seem anemic to many Dems on policy, but politically it would give them the most popular provision in [the stalled Build Back Better package] to campaign on, drug prices, and defuse their biggest land mine, sharply rising ACA premiums."
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