BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Inflation Reduction Act has passed by just one vote in the U.S. Senate after Vice President Kamala Harris voted in a tie-breaker. But now it hangs in the balance of the House of Representatives.
The act aims to curb inflation by making prescription drugs more affordable, raising taxes for the wealthiest corporations, and investing in ways to combat our changing climate.
"This is a really good first step," Jess Maurer, executive director of Maine Council on Aging, said.
Maurer said this bill will help older Mainers on fixed incomes who often have to decide between paying for their prescription drugs or their groceries.
"People are sort of always playing Russian roulette with their prescription drugs. Paying for food or not paying for the drugs, taking the drug every other day so that they can heat their home," Maurer said.
If the house passes it and President Joe Biden signs it, people on Medicare wouldn't pay more than $2,000 per year for their drugs.
The Office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the cap would only be for 10 of 50 drugs that Medicare can choose to spend its money on but not for all of them.
"Making major changes to the Medicare program through the partisan reconciliation process is a mistake that will lead to higher costs for those not receiving Medicare, higher launch prices for new drugs, and fewer breakthroughs for new treatments and cures," Collins wrote in a statement. "Last year, Democrats ignored warnings from economists and passed a $1.9 trillion partisan spending bill. Their “American Rescue Plan” triggered enormous inflation, which has burdened the people of Maine and America with high gas and grocery prices. Now, instead of working to put out this fire that has harmed families, Democrats voted to advance another reckless spending bill that will further fan the flames, adding to the pain that Mainers are experiencing right now. In fact, a study from Penn Wharton confirms that the bill, contrary to its title, does nothing to reduce inflation," she added.
Sen. Angus King, an independent, disagrees with Collins. In a virtual press conference over the weekend, King talked about the importance of this bill.
"I think this is an incredibly important bill," King said. "The principal pieces of it involve first, drug costs and the ability of Medicare to negotiate what amounts to a bulk discount."
This bill also includes the largest investment in climate change in the country's history.
The Nature Conservancy in Maine said funding to fight climate change will help Maine right away.
"It will allow us to repair roads, make sure the water can flow under those roads during big spring storms, and help communities really adapt to climate change," Kate Dempsey of the Nature Conservancy in Maine said.
That includes helping with infrastructure to increase the number of electric vehicles, as well as protect Maine's forests and increase weatherization in buildings.
The House is expected to vote on this bill by the end of the week.