MIL-OSI USA: O’Halleran Votes to Pass Build Back Better Act

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01)

WASHINGTON—This morning, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) voted to pass H.R.5376, the Build Back Better Act. The package includes significant provisions that will invest in Arizona children and their education, hardworking families, health care, lowering prescription drug prices for seniors, and concrete solutions to combat the climate crisis—longstanding problems that affect all Americans, but rural families most of all.

“While I have supported key provisions of this legislation as the package evolved—like measures to address climate change and to lower the cost of prescription drugs—the partisan bickering and political games that have complicated and delayed a vote on this bill have deeply frustrated both commonsense Arizonans and practical lawmakers on both sides of the aisle,” said O’Halleran. “However, I know that this legislation truly invests in the health and well-being of our children and in rural Arizona families and tribal communities. This package brings long-overdue change to the systems we’ve undervalued for years, creating new jobs and opportunities for working Arizonans that will finally work to bring concrete solutions that deescalate the climate crisis.”

The legislation:

  • Expands universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, which ensures access to free, high-quality preschool for more than 6 million children;
    • only 22% percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Arizona have access to publicly funded pre-K, while the average cost of private pre-K in the state is $8,600. The Build Back Better Act will expand access to free pre-K to 139,000 young Arizonans, setting children up for lifelong success and helping to bolster our nation’s workforce development;
    • the bill also saves most families more than half their current spending on child care, ensuring the vast majority of families will have to pay no more than seven percent of their income for child care, a huge win for rural Arizona parents;
  • Invests in clean, renewable energy that will create new, good-paying jobs that support a family, revitalizing rural and tribal Arizona economies, while addressing climate change in the process;
    • the bill makes the largest investment in fighting climate change in our nation’s history, including targeted measures to mitigate wildfires and droughts—vital to Arizona’s future;

“Arizona’s First Congressional District feels the effects of climate change more acutely than almost any other region across our nation,” said O’Halleran. “Extreme weather events like wildfires, flooding due to monsoons and fire-borne burn scars, and record-breaking drought have cost lives and livelihoods across our beautiful state.”

  • Guarantees affordable, quality care for older Americans and people with disabilities in their homes and communities by strengthening an existing program through Medicaid, ending the existing backlog and vastly improving working conditions for home care workers and creating new jobs for caregivers;
  • Invests in child care and our future workforce development by limiting child care costs to no more than 7% of income for families earning up to 250% of state median income;
    • Access to quality child care is currently a major strain for families in Arizona, where the average annual cost of child care for a toddler is $9,395, meaning that an Arizona family with two young children would on average spend 24% of their income on child care for one year.

The legislation also makes long-overdue policy updates to lower the costs of prescription drugs. The bill will lower prescription drug costs for seniors by capping seniors’ out-of-pocket costs and giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices. The measure:

  • Caps out-of-pocket costs for all seniors to $2,000 per year and allow seniors to pay their out-of-pocket expenses throughout the calendar year via monthly installments instead of all at once;
    • According to AARP data, a single brand-name medication taken on a scheduled, repeating basis, was more than $6,600 a month before insurance in 2020. Older Americans take, on average, 4.7 prescription drugs every month;
  • Penalizes drug manufacturers that raise the price of a drug beyond the inflation rate for drugs in Medicare Parts B and D beginning Oct. 1 of this year;
  • Insulin prices are capped at $35 per month to ensure that all who need it can afford it;
  • Promotes lower-cost options, such as generics, by incentivizing and bolstering competition in the marketplace.

In the 115th Congress, O’Halleran introduced the Capped Allowable Payments from Seniors (CAPS) for Prescriptions Act, to limit the out-of-pocket costs seniors on Medicare pay for their prescription drugs. Under the CAPS for Prescriptions Act, annual out-of-pocket costs for drug payments, including deductibles, coinsurance, co-pays, and other uncovered costs for Medicare beneficiaries would be capped at $2,600.

“I am elated to see that my efforts to cap prescription drug costs for seniors and families have finally been realized. Arizona is home to over 1.35 million Medicare beneficiaries, many of whom often live on a fixed income, the median of which is only slightly over $29,000,” said O’Halleran. “The ever-rising costs of prescriptions drugs too often force these seniors to make the decision between life-saving health care or putting food on the table. I am extremely pleased to see a deal reached on a legislative solution to the skyrocketing costs for seniors within the evolving Build Back Better plan and was proud to see my legislation used as a framework for this final measure.”

O’Halleran also fought to ensure that no unnecessary red tape appeared in the final text, including a measure that would have enabled government monitoring of Americans’ personal finances. In a letter to House leadership, O’Halleran and colleagues urged the exclusion of a provision that would have awarded information on the gross annual inflows and outflows of all types of financial accounts in the United States to the Internal Revenue Service and were successful in removing it from the final bill.

Additionally, because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) does not score the revenue that comes from the IRS enforcement provision of the Build Back Better Act, current total estimates of what the legislation will add to the deficit are skewed. Yesterday, CBO announced that the bill would increase outlays by $80 billion and revenues by $207 billion, thus decreasing the deficit by $127 billion through 2031. Also within the final CBO is data reflecting that legislative measures to lower the cost of prescription drug prices would save the government about $160 billion over the next decade.

After the vote, O’Halleran blasted provisions to raise the SALT cap, a measure added to the final bill, which would increase for five years the cap on which families who itemize their taxes can deduct state and local paid taxes from their overall federal owed amount. 

“Raising the SALT cap will provide a tax cut exclusively to a group of overwhelmingly wealthy families living in coastal states. This is not right nor fair to hardworking Arizonans and should not have been included in this final bill,” said O’Halleran. “I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that tax provisions within the Senate’s finalized Build Back Better legislation will reflect the needs of everyday Americans—like the honest people of Arizona’s First District—not coastal elites.” 

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