Sunday, May 26, 2024

GOP Makes “Price Gouge Diabetics on Insulin” Part of Its Official Party Platform

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Tens of millions of Americans suffer from diabetes, with some paying up to $1,000 a month for insulin, a necessary, lifesaving drug. Americans pay about five to eight times more for insulin than Canadians do—so much more that Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign once took a bus full of Americans to Canada to buy the drug cheaper just to prove this very point. So a proposal to ensure no one with insurance has to shell out more than $35 a month for the life-or-death drug would probably be a no-brainer to support, right? Apparently, for Republicans, not so much!

While the House of Representatives passed a bill capping the cost of insulin on Thursday night with unanimous Democratic support, a mere 12 Republicans voted for the legislation, with 193 voting against it (five didn‘t vote at all). In other words, the House GOP was offered an opportunity to support making insulin more affordable for millions of Americans, and the response from most was: “Eh, we’d rather they continue paying through the nose.” As The New York Times notes, “many diabetes patients ration their medicines or discontinue them because of the cost,” and a study shows that approximately 20% of Americans who require the drug would save money under the plan. Arguing against the bill from the House floor on Thursday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers seemed to suggest that regulating the price of this drug that keeps people with diabetes alive would be a slippery slope to the end of capitalism as we know it.

Democrats had originally wanted lower drug prices for all Americans, and a larger prescription drug package that, per the Times, “would limit price increases on all prescription drugs, improve the generosity of Medicare’s drug coverage, and allow the government to negotiate directly on the price of some drugs used by Medicare patients, while also limiting insulin co-payments.” It would also provide insulin coverage for people without health insurance. That proposal was part of Joe Biden’s larger Build Back Better agenda that conservative Democrat Joe Manchin killed in the Senate. Maine Republican senator Susan Collins has reportedly been in talks with Democrats about a bill to lower the cost of insulin, but it’s not clear if that will go anywhere or be able to garner any other Republican support.

With this House bill targeting insulin alone, Democrats presumably thought that they could get a decent number of Republicans on board, given the out-of-control cost of insulin and how many people in the country are affected by diabetes. They probably also thought as much given that the proposal is overwhelmingly popular (even 77% of Republicans support allowing the federal government to negotiate for lower prices on medications, according to a 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation poll). But apparently, they thought wrong!

After all, this is the party that keeps proposing cuts to other popular, lifesaving programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; we also shouldn’t forget that the last time Republicans were in power, they spent most of their energy trying to repeal an Obamacare mandate with a bill that would have left an estimated 13 million (!!) more people uninsured. And despite the fact that they clearly want to win back the White House and Congress, doing so by actually passing things that would make people like them more is apparently not part of the plan. (Instead, they’ll just bank on voter-suppression efforts to return to power.)

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