Yellen says energy, health care costs still ‘too high’ and are ‘top economic priority’

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday that inflation has caused energy and health care costs to remain elevated for American households and that reducing them is the Biden administration’s top priority in economic policy.

Yellen delivered remarks in Norcross, Georgia, and said “GDP growth is strong, inflation has come down significantly and the labor market is remarkably healthy.” But she signaled the White House is aware of stubbornly high prices for energy and health care expenses with the effects of inflation lingering in the economy.

“Of course, the president and I recognize that the costs of key household expenses like energy and health care are still too high, so we remain committed to taking additional action to bring them down. This is our top economic priority,” Yellen said.

She noted that energy costs have continued to “pose challenges for American families” given the disruption to energy markets caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which she said put “significant strain on pocketbooks.”

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DOMESTIC OIL PRODUCTION CURRENTLY THRIVES, BUT THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION FIGHTS IT

Yellen touted the Biden administration’s release of 180 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which left SPR crude oil inventories near four-decade lows, helping contribute to price reductions for consumers.

“Record domestic oil and natural gas production also helped address our immediate needs,” Yellen said. “We navigated the short-term crisis, but it was a powerful reminder that relying on oil and gas can be expensive and unpredictable. The burden can be even greater for lower-income and middle-class families, for whom energy accounts for a larger share of their monthly budgets.”

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The U.S. has led the world in oil production for six straight years, although the industry has taken issue with the Biden administration’s mounting restrictions on domestic production, arguing they could undermine oil and natural gas production over the long-term. 

Yellen went on to discuss the administration’s efforts to lower health care costs, saying “we’re pursuing wide-ranging efforts to give families more breathing room” and noting the inclusion of proposed tax cuts for middle- and low-income workers in President Biden’s budget

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She added that the administration is “especially focused on health care costs,” adding the Inflation Reduction Act “extended the American Rescue Plan’s low premiums, capped the cost of insulin at $35 for Medicare beneficiaries and allows Medicare to negotiate prices for key prescription drugs.”

Yellen delivered her remarks in Georgia at a company called Suniva, a solar cell manufacturer the secretary touted as an example of a company that the Biden administration’s actions helped compete against heavily-subsidized imported solar equipment through tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act. 

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Suniva filed for bankruptcy in 2017, but is restarting manufacturing this spring and recently concluded a three-year sourcing contract that will lead to “the first crystalline solar modules with U.S.-made solar cells,” Yellen said.

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