The House of Representatives on Thursday voted on a bill to cap insulin prices at just $35 a month, easing the burden on millions of Americans who spend thousands of dollars a year on the life-saving drug.
The legislation, passed by No. 232-193 on Thursday, would provide relief to privately insured patients with slimmer plans and those enrolled in Medicare. It will not help the uninsured.
The plan won’t go into effect until 2023, and it still needs to pass through the Senate. The bill sets the cost of participating in the monthly insulin supply at $35 or 25 percent of the plan’s negotiated price, whichever is less. However, it does not target drug companies that have raised the price of the drug, and instead targets insurance companies and employers for offering lower prices.
Democrats can now take the Affordable Insulin Now Act to the campaign trail before the midterm elections and beat up Republicans who opposed it, as polls show much of the public wants Congress to take action to reduce drug costs.
Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in voting to cut insulin prices
Rep. Daniel Moser, Pennsylvania.
Rep. Marianette Miller-Mix, Iowa
Rep. Bill Posey, Florida.
Representative Christopher Smith, NJ
Rep. Fred Upton, MI.
Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington.
Rep. Richard Hudson, NC
Rep. John Katko, New York
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, New York
Rep. Don Bacon, Nep.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania.
But Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, complained that the legislation is only “a small part of a larger package around government price controls for prescription drugs.” Critics say the bill would raise premiums and fail to target drug middlemen who are seen as contributing to higher insulin prices.
“Today, the price of insulin is set by the government,” McMorris-Rodgers said. ‘What then? Gas? food? History tells us that price fixing doesn’t work.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Democrats could have a deal on prescription drugs if they dropped their attempt to mandate Medicare to negotiate prices. “Do Democrats really want to help the elderly, or would they rather take on a campaign problem?” Grassley said.
Rep. Bob Goode, R-Va, said on the House floor that Democrats are using the bill “as a gateway to their dream of complete social medicine.”
More than 37 million Americans live with diabetes, either type 1 (does not produce insulin) or type 2 (does not use insulin properly). An estimated 6-7 million people depend on insulin to control their blood sugar.
As insulin has been refined over the years, its price has skyrocketed. The cost of Eli Lily’s insulin vial has grown 1,000 percent over 20 years — in 1999 a single vial cost $21, and by 2019 a single vial cost $332.
Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries called the current price of insulin “un-American.”
From left, Rep. Angie Craig, D-MN, House Majority Whip James Cleburn, Rep. Dan Kildee, R-Mich., Rep. Lucy McBath, Ga. , speaking about their legislation aimed at capping the price of insulin, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 31, 2022. The bill would keep consumers’ out-of-pocket costs to no more than $35 per month. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
“It’s off the patent, there are no research and development costs associated with (insulin) and yet so many Americans are paying about $4,000 a year … that’s unacceptable, un-American, and unreasonable,” he said.
A survey conducted by the American Diabetes Association found that 1 in 4 diabetics admitted to rationing insulin because of its high price.
The plan to lower prescription drug prices was originally included in President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, but was dismissed after the bill stalled in the Senate.
The average cost of a vial of insulin in the United States is $98.70. The country closest to what the US pays for is Chile, where a vial of insulin costs $21.48.