Republicans reject insulin cap for millions of diabetic Americans, flexing Big Pharma connections
The 57-43 vote would have capped insulin prices at $35 for private insurers. 7 republicans voted in favor, but 10 were needed to avoid the filibuster.
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Democrats were able to pass the all-important Inflation Reduction Act on Sunday, Aug. 7, scoring a major victory for Democrats and the Biden Administration. However, that did not stop Republicans from getting a win of their own by removing an insulin cap measure from the legislation that would have capped insulin prices at $35 for those privately insured.
Instead, sky-high prices will continue to affect millions of diabetic Americans.
Even with seven Senate Republicans voting in favor of the cap along with all 50 Senate Democrats, Republicans were able to use the filibuster to force their way.
The measure was not included in the original legislation and went untouched until this past Sunday afternoon, as it was a separate proposal introduced by Democrats and joined by the seven Republicans that included Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith, and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy.
The Senate Parliamentarian cited that doing so would be in violation of the rules of the reconciliation process, a strategy used by Democrats to avoid Republican filibuster and pass legislation with a simple majority vote. Democrats did not drop the measure from the bill, and opted for Republicans to do so on the Senate floor. A 60-vote majority was needed to keep the insulin cap.
After the vote, Oregon Democrat and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden accused Republicans of being pressured into voting in opposition by huge pharmaceutical companies without regard for the 3.3 million Americans on Medicare who receive some form of insulin, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“Republicans have just gone on the record in favor of expensive insulin — After years of tough talk about taking on insulin makers, Republicans have once agains wilted in the face of heat from Big Pharma," he said.
On the Senate floor, Washington Sen. Patty Murray also decried the ultimate decision from her Republican colleagues.
“We have an opportunity to make a difference and permanently cap insulin — This should not be a hard vote to cast,” she said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina was one of the bigger opposers on the floor, as he rejected the private market proposal from Democrats, as Republicans offered Democrats an alternative that they found to be too weak and ultimately rejected.
According to the CDC, 37 million Americans suffer from diabetes. That is one out of every 10 citizens, with even more who don’t know that they have it. Over 7 million people rely on some form of insulin to survive.
Additionally, an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed over 20% of those who take insulin and have health coverage through large employers pay the $35 cap. Twenty-five percent of people with Affordable Care Act policies and just about 33% of those with insurance from a small employer pay a lot more, upwards to over $350.
Arizona Democrat Michael Muscato, a candidate for U.S. House in 2020, also pointed to the Republican ties with Big Pharma.
“The members of Congress who voted against lowering/protections on the price of insulin are not representatives of the American people, they are sales reps for pharmaceutical companies,” he wrote.
When it comes to Big Pharma’s reaction, PhRMA CEO Robert Davis said during a conference call a week ago that the legislation would be “highly chilling on future innovation.” Additionally adding that the Medicaid negotiation factor is “misguided” and said it would only “ultimately harm the very patients and seniors that lawmakers claim to be helping.”
A long-standing issue for Democrats and Americans, the cao has previously been pushed only for it to fail under similar circumstances. Despite it only costing about $10 or even less to make, the cost of insulin has skyrocketed and continues with millions of Americans having to ration out their medication, which can and has led to bad and fatal consequences.