Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel will testify before the Senate health committee in March over the company’s price for its Covid-19 vaccine when the shots are sold on the private market.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the health panel, confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that Bancel would appear at a hearing titled: “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?”
Bancel will testify at 10 a.m. ET on March 22.
The Moderna CEO stirred controversy last month when he said the company could increase the price of the shots to $110 to $130 a dose, significantly higher than the $26 the U.S. government pays for the omicron boosters. Sanders sent a letter to the CEO calling the proposed price hike “outrageous.”
Moderna, in a statement Wednesday, said it will provide the vaccines to the uninsured at no cost through a patient assistance program.
“For uninsured or underinsured people, Moderna’s patient assistance program will provide COVID-19 vaccines at no cost,” the company said.
Sanders, in a letter to Bancel last month, slammed the proposed price hike as “outrageous” because the vaccine was developed in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health using taxpayer money.
“I find your decision particularly offensive given the fact that the vaccine was jointly developed in partnership with scientists from the National Institutes of Health, a U.S. government agency that is funded by U.S. taxpayers,” Sanders wrote to Bancel.
Sanders said raising the vaccine price would have a negative effect on the budgets of Medicare and Medicaid and will increase private health insurance premiums, but he said the uninsured would feel the greatest impact.
“Perhaps most significantly, the quadrupling of prices will make the vaccine unavailable for millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans who will not be able to afford it,” Sanders said. “How many of these Americans will die from Covid-19 as a result of limited access to these lifesaving vaccines?”
Bancel sold more than $400 million in company stock from the start of the pandemic through March 2022. The Covid vaccine is currently Moderna’s only commercially available product.
The federal government has guaranteed free Covid vaccines for everyone in the country regardless of insurance status since the shots rolled out in December 2020. The vaccines will remain free for people who have Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance under the Affordable Care Act even after the federal Covid immunization program ends.
The U.S. still has 120 million omicron boosters that haven’t been used. The uninsured will continue to have access to these shots for free, but it’s unclear how long the supply will last.
When the federal supply runs out, uninsured adults may have to pay the full price for the shots. The White House has said it is developing plans to help.
There is a free federal vaccine program for children whose families or caretakers can’t afford the shots.