Insulin Will Remain Expensive for Many, Thanks to Republicans

“Republicans have just gone on the record in favor of expensive insulin,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said after Republicans voted to remove an insulin price cap from the Inflation Reduction Act. “After years of tough talk about taking on insulin makers, Republicans have once against wilted in the face of heat from Big Pharma.”

Democrats had hoped to limit patients’ out-of-pocket cost for insulin to $35 per month as part of legislation to address inflation and climate change. But when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the provision’s cap on private insurance is not primarily connected to the federal budget, Republicans, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), seized their chance to object.

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Democrats needed 60 votes, according to Senate math, in order to keep the private insurance cap in the Inflation Reduction Act. While seven Republicans voted to retain the cap, that was still three senators short of the 60 needed.

The goods news is that the bill — at least for the moment — maintained a $35 per month cap on insulin costs for people on Medicare.

Around 37.3 million Americans, 11.3 percent of the population, have diabetes. Around 1 in 5 diabetic Americans with private insurance have to shell out more than $35 per month for the insulin they need to stay alive, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis cited by The Washington Post. And insulin is a “catastrophic” expense for 14 percent of the seven million Americans who need it daily, according to a Yale University study. That means those 14 percent are spending at least 40 percent of their monthly income (after paying for food and housing) on insulin.

Average insulin prices have more than doubled in the last 10 years, and the cost of Humalog, a fast-acting kind of insulin, has skyrocketed since it debuted in 1996 at $21 per vial. “Now [Humalog] costs more than 10 times that,” said Kasia Lipska, an associate professor at Yale School of Medicine. “This is not inflation, there’s much more going on.”

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