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Senate Republicans Block $35 Cap on Price of Insulin

Government

Insulin ampoules and insulin syringe | Image by Shutterstock

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Senate Democrats attempted to regulate the price of insulin through their social spending bill known as the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

A provision of the bill was intended to limit out-of-pocket monthly insulin costs to $35 for most Americans who use the medication, but that provision failed to get the 60 votes required to be approved.


The final vote on the bill was 57-43, with seven Republicans joining all Democratic senators in voting for the price cap.

A proposal to cap the price of insulin at $35 per month for only Medicare patients remains a part of the legislation. Still, the spending bill must pass the House.

Few of the 43 Republican Senators who voted against the insulin price cap have commented on their votes.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) tweeted that he objected to the measure because it was a “gotcha” vote prompted by Democrats to trap Republicans in a politically unpopular situation.

“Lying Dems and their friends in corporate media are at it again, distorting a Democrat’ gotcha’ vote,” he tweeted.

“In reality, the Dems wanted to break Senate rules to pass insulin pricing cap instead of going through regular order. They put this in a bill it wasn’t allowed in, all for show.”

Sharing a similar sentiment, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) told reporters ahead of the vote that Democrats “wanted to tempt us too, I guess, vote against it.”

The rule Sen. Johnson referred to was a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that the insulin cap was not eligible to be considered under the same rules as the rest of the spending bill.

The Democrats’ spending bill is being passed through a procedure known as budget reconciliation, which allows only certain financial measures to pass with 50 votes instead of 60.

In this case, most of the Democratic proposed provisions, except the insulin cap, were allowed to be considered under reconciliation.

While the insulin cap provision was deemed ineligible to be passed with 50-votes, the measure still could have been kept as part of the legislation anyway if it had received 60 votes from Senators.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) proposed the insulin cap provision. He foreshadowed that Republicans would block the provision.

“The only way it doesn’t pass is if folks on the other side of the aisle decide to block it,” Warnock told the Washington Post.

More than 37 million, or roughly 11% of Americans, are living with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Of those, approximately 8.4 million use insulin; for one million of them, the drug is lifesaving.

A Yale University study found insulin is an “extreme financial burden” for more than 14% of Americans who use it.

“People require insulin, it’s not an option, and nobody should have to decide between life-sustaining medication or food and rent,” Dr. Robert Gabbay, the chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, told the Associated Press.

More than 1 in 5 insulin users on private medical insurance pay more than $35 per month for the medicine, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The same analysis found that the median monthly savings for those people would range from $19 to $27 per month with the medication capped to $35 a month, depending on their type of insurance market.

Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisck, and Sanofi are the only insulin manufacturers serving the U.S. market, granting them significant freedom in setting the prices.

“They’ve been historically raising their list prices for their respective products in lockstep with one another,” said Dr. Jing Luo, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. “There hasn’t been a lot of pricing pressure.”

A Congressional Budget Office analysis of a bill proposed earlier this year found an insulin cap to $35 a month would cost approximately $23 billion in taxpayer dollars over the next decade and result in increased premiums charged by Medicare and private insurers.

“If your health insurance company says, voluntarily, nobody who buys insulin in our plan will have to pay more than $25, the question is, who is paying the balance of that?” Luo told Fox Business. “That then means their cost will go up, which means they’ll raise premiums on everyone.”    

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