Update: Senate Republicans knocked a $35 monthly limit on insulin costs for diabetics out of the Democratic economic bill on Sunday. "The reality is the cost of insulin is not just out of control, it is devastating people," Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said on the floor before the vote, per the Washington Post. Because of a parliamentarian ruling, the measure covering insured patients needed more than the usual simple majority to pass, the Hill reports. The tally was 57-43, with all no votes coming from Republicans. The parliamentarian's ruling did not affect the similar limit for Medicare patients, which remains in the bill and could have an effect on insulin prices generally. Our story from April 1 follows:
The House has passed a bill capping the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for insured patients, part of an election-year push by Democrats for price curbs on prescription drugs at a time of rising inflation, per the AP. Experts say the legislation, which passed 232-193 Thursday, would provide significant relief for privately insured patients with skimpier plans and for Medicare enrollees facing rising out-of-pocket costs for their insulin. Some could save hundreds of dollars annually, and all insured patients would get the benefit of predictable monthly costs for insulin. The bill would not help the uninsured. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the legislation, notes the New York Times.
The Affordable Insulin Now Act will serve as a political vehicle to rally Democrats and force Republicans who oppose it into uncomfortable votes ahead of the midterms. For the legislation to pass Congress, 10 Republican senators would have to vote in favor to overcome a filibuster. Democrats acknowledge they don't have an answer for how that's going to happen, but the political sniping has begun: "If 10 Republicans stand between the American people being able to get access to affordable insulin, that's a good question for 10 Republicans to answer," said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., a cosponsor of the House bill. "Republicans get diabetes, too. Republicans die from diabetes."
Public opinion polls have consistently shown support across party lines for congressional action to limit drug costs. But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., complained the legislation is only "a small piece of a larger package around government price controls for prescription drugs." Critics say the bill would raise premiums and fails to target pharmaceutical middlemen seen as contributing to high list prices for insulin. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Democrats could have a deal on prescription drugs if they drop their bid to authorize Medicare to negotiate prices. "Do Democrats really want to help seniors, or would they rather have the campaign issue?" Grassley said. (Read more insulin stories.)