Republicans are facing fierce backlash for removing the bill that would have capped the price of life-saving insulin at $35 from the tax and climate bill.
Democrats’ longtime ambition to include people not covered by Medicare by capping the price of insulin for those with private coverage was proposed in their broader legislation, called The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
Republicans left the part that applies to Medicare patients untouched, but lowered the insulin cap for other private patients.
The legislative measure received a 57-43 vote after only seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting for it and fell just three votes short of becoming law for big pharmaceutical companies.
The move has angered several people who lashed out at Republicans, describing them as “pharmaceutical sales reps” and calling it “unconscionable” that poor people could even lose their lives if they can’t afford insulin.
“The members of Congress who voted against lowering/protecting insulin prices are not representatives of the American people, they are salesmen for pharmaceutical companies,” Michael Muscato, an Arizona Democratic Party politician, said on Twitter.
Vincent Rajkumar, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, said it is “unfortunate” that legislation to cap insulin prices at $35 is not going to happen again.
“The price of insulin and other prescription drugs gives you an idea why regulations are necessary to protect the public in return for the monopoly/oligopoly status that prescription drugs have due to patents and regulatory barriers to competition,” he said.
Sen. Scott Weiner said his father depends on insulin to stay alive, and asked how many people would have to die from “insulin rationing” before a price cap is passed.
“It’s sickening to me that almost every GOP senator — even those with insulin-dependent family members — voted against appraising it. How many people have to die from insulin rationing before they stop blocking its effects?” he said.
Controlling the skyrocketing prices of insulin has been a major challenge for Democrats as prices have more than tripled over the past two decades in the United States, while people in other countries pay only a fraction of that price.
According to the Centers for Diseases Control, more than 34.2 million Americans have diabetes, with Native Americans, Hispanics, and black people disproportionately affected by the disease. These groups are also less likely to be covered by health insurance.
More than 1 in 5 people who use insulin on private medical insurance pay more than $35 per month for the drug, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
About 7 million Americans are required to use insulin daily.
A similar study from Yale University found that 14 percent of insulin users spend more than 40 percent of their income on medicine after food and housing costs.
A Twitter user named Warren Leight criticized Republicans for calling themselves “pro-life” to support the overturning of Roe v Wade and called it an “insulin-price-gouging-old-party”.
“The reality is that we have a system in this country where big pharma is legally allowed to overprice patients. Insulin is expensive because pharmaceutical companies want to maximize profits at the expense of patient lives. We need a cap on insulin and all other Rx drug costs,” said one user Hunter Cantrell.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, raised a point of order on the insulin aspect, saying it violated the Congressional Budget Act, which governs what can be included in a reconciliation bill. This required it to get 60 votes to stay in the bill.
However, seven Republicans who voted to keep the provision in the legislation were praised on social media. Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska joined Democrats in supporting it.