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Yellen touts Biden administration health care policies in visit to Pittsburgh

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-12th District) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh Feb. 13, 2024 (Photo courtesy Lee’s office)

Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 13, 2024

PITTSBURGH — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited Pittsburgh on Tuesday, to talk health care costs and the economy, two areas the Biden administration says have benefited from its policies. 

“Here in Pennsylvania, health care spending per capita has increased since the 1990s,” Yellen told an audience of health care workers at West Penn Hospital. “Across the country, middle-income households spend around one-fifth of their income on health care-related expenses, and almost half of all adults say it’s difficult to afford health care costs.”

High health care costs are a public health issue and an economic one, Yellen added. “The president and I are committed to ensuring that Americans can afford the care that they deserve.”

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare can now negotiate lower prices for drugs with pharmaceutical companies, and the price of insulin is capped at $35 per month for Medicare recipients. The IRA also raises subsidies for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. 

In 2022, Yellen said, the rate of uninsured Americans dropped to just under 8%, a historic low. “And in the open enrollment period that ended a few weeks ago, over 21 million Americans signed up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace,” she added. “This is an all-time record.”

Yellen toured the Skin Cancer Center, a 9,000-square-foot facility that opened in November at West Penn Hospital, with Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-12th District). 

“For more than a million Pennsylvanians with diabetes, 76,000 folks in my district alone, we won the fight to ensure that if you have health insurance, you’ll pay no more than $35 for your insulin,” Lee said in remarks following the tour. “Now we’re fighting to cap the price of insulin and other expensive medications for every person, no matter their insurance status, and expand these caps to other medications you need to keep your families healthy.”

The two got a look at the center’s VECTRA scanning machine, which resembles body scanners at airport security lines. It’s one of only a few such machines operating in the U.S., using artificial intelligence to scan a patient’s body for possible skin cancer, and to allow doctors to monitor changes over time.

“This seems to me like new technology that can promise really remarkable advances in treatment of skin cancers,” Yellen said after the tour. 

Yellen declined to answer questions from reporters about the pending sale of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel Corp. of Japan. Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman and U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio have expressly called on Yellen — in her capacity as chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) — to halt the $14.9 billion transaction for national security reasons. She said the committee takes such a charge seriously. 

Yellen is the latest member of the Biden administration to visit western Pennsylvania to help spotlight the president’s economic policies and their tangible impacts on the region. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited in January to highlight investments in transportation and infrastructure, and Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to visit Pittsburgh next week to “highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued progress towards delivering clean water for every American,” according to the White House. 

President Joe Biden will be in East Palestine, Ohio on Friday, and has visited Pennsylvania three times already in 2024.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.