U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., addressed national and state health concerns in Altanta on Monday. (Photo credit: John Arthur Brown)

ATLANTA – U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra addressed national and state health concerns Monday from senior drug prices to abortion during an Atlanta visit. 

Becerra, joined by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., spent the morning visiting Ser Familia, a Latino community center in Norcross.

The Democratic duo touted a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year that sets a $35 monthly cap on the cost of insulin for Americans over age 65 enrolled in Medicare.  

“No senior in Georgia, no senior in America will have to pay more than $35 per month for insulin,” Ossoff said about the new law, which took effect at the start of the year.  

“There was fierce opposition from drug companies who are accustomed to making a lot of money. … We stood up in passing this law to save seniors in Georgia hundreds of dollars per year and helped them afford life-saving medicine.”

Becerra shared the story of a senior in Texas who purchased insulin at the new low price but returned to the pharmacy to settle up because she thought she had erroneously underpaid and felt guilty.  

“You should not be paying more than $35,” Becerra said. “If you are, you’re entitled to your money back.”  

“Save that money for other important things or some kind of gift … for your grandchild,” Becerra quipped.  

Becerra and Ossoff added that under the new law, doctor-prescribed preventive vaccines such as the shingles vaccine are now free for seniors on Medicare.  

Becerra and Ossoff also addressed a Texas federal judge’s ruling last week that a drug used in medication abortions, mifepristone, was improperly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 2000. 

However, a different federal judge in Washington state issued a ruling blocking the FDA from removing mifepristone from the market.  

“We feel very confident that, ultimately, we will prevail in court,” Becerra said Monday. “One judge in one court in one state should not have the ability to undermine safe and effective medicines that millions of Americans rely on.” 

Both Becerra and Ossoff said mifepristone is still legal and available.  

During an afternoon event in Atlanta, Becerra addressed Georgia health care, suggesting that the state fully expand Medicaid as 40 other states have done.  

“What we can do in places like the state of Georgia is offer the chance to make this a unified system of health,” he said. “That’s why the Affordable Care Act allowed states to expand access to health care through Medicaid. We [the federal government] would pay for most of it.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other state Republican leaders have opposed full Medicaid expansion, arguing it would be too costly and that a more limited expansion plan that offers Medicaid to some low-income Georgians who meet work or education requirements is a better fit for the state. That plan is set to take effect this summer.

Becerra also addressed the upcoming nationwide Medicaid “unwinding” in which pandemic-era Medicaid regulations will be relaxed and states will need to determine whether current Medicaid enrollees are still eligible for the program. 

“We all want to do a good job because these are our kids,” Becerra said. “Let’s get to a wellness care system and move away from an illness care system.”  

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.