Ira Katz, owner and pharmacist at Little Five Points Pharmacy in Atlanta, shows Sen. Raphael Warnock some of the medical equipment used to treat diabetes, including syringes, test strips, glucose monitors and more. | Ross Williams/States Newsroom
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Thursday passed a bill on a bipartisan 232-193 vote that would limit the price of insulin, as congressional Democrats met throughout the day with health care advocates to make their case for the proposal.
Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Patty Murray of Washington state held a virtual round table with residents from their states to push for capping the cost of insulin at $35. The House bill, from Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota, includes the same limit.
“Costs for prescription drugs like insulin have skyrocketed,” Warnock said. “It’s not a mere inconvenience if you can’t have access to it. This is a life-saving drug.”
He argued that the formula for insulin was created 100 years ago, and there is no reason for the rising cost of the medicine because “we’re not talking about the cost of research and development.”
“We’re paying the cost of greed,” Warnock said.
The senators were joined by Leslie Dach, chair of the group Protect Our Care; Kevin Wren, a Type 1 diabetes patient from Washington state; and Shannon Bjorneby, from Darien, Georgia, whose son was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Murray said that she’s hoping for a bipartisan effort in the Senate to pass a bill, introduced by Warnock, to cap insulin costs. This provision was originally in the president’s “Build Back Better” social spending and climate package sent to Congress that stalled in the Senate.
Murray added that when people have to ration their insulin because it costs so much, “that is a direct threat to their health.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation, which produces research on health care policy, detailed that Medicare spending on insulin increased 840% between 2007 and 2017, or from $1.4 billion to $13.3 billion.
Wren talked about several times when he had to ration his insulin and said that the cost of his medicine was sometimes more than his rent.
“This legislation will lead people like me to choose between buying our insulin and paying for rent or buying food,” he said.
House insulin bill
Earlier Thursday, Craig and fellow Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath of Georgia and Dan Kildee of Michigan and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina held a press conference, advocating for the measure passed by the House, the “Affordable Insulin Now Act.”
“Michigan families and seniors are paying too much for insulin,” said Kildee (D-Flint). Today, with bipartisan support, the House passed my legislation to cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month,” said Congressman Kildee. “As the father of a diabetic, I have seen first-hand how the extremely high price of prescription drugs, like insulin, hurts patients and families.”
The bill would ensure that no patient pays more than $35 per month for insulin, regardless of their insurance provider. Twelve Republicans voted with Democrats for it.
Earlier this year, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for insulin to be capped at $35 in the state, as the Advance first reported.
The chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone, said on the House floor that he wants Congress to continue working to lower the overall cost of prescription drugs, “but we cannot afford to wait any longer to address the price of insulin.”
“Today, 1 in 4 Americans who need insulin report either having cut back or skipped doses because the cost is simply too high,” the New Jersey Democrat said. “No one should have to ration their insulin to help reduce costs, risking their health and in some tragic cases, costing them their lives.”
The CDC estimates that 34.2 million people, or 10.5% of the U.S. population, has diabetes.
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