Price gouging by drug makers has raised the price of insulin by almost 500% in recent years, with some paying more than $1,000 a month for the medication, even with insurance.
“Many nights I can’t sleep, worrying about how to pay for the insulin to treat my diabetes,” said Mayra Z (pseudonym), a single mother recently diagnosed with the disease that affects more than 2.4 million Floridians. Like Mayra, an estimated 105,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes every year in the Sunshine State.
“Sometimes it came down to: ‘Do I pay the rent, or do I take care of my health?’” the hardworking Cuban American told Floricua.
That is because price gouging by drug makers has raised the price of insulin by almost 500% in recent years, with some people now paying more than $1,000 a month for the essential medication, even with insurance. In fact, in 1999 the cost of a vial of insulin manufactured by Eli Lilly was just $21. By 2019 the price skyrocketed to $332 per vial, even though the medication costs the manufacturers a few dollars, according to Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee from Michigan, who is among the authors of the bill.
‘Betrayed’ by the GOP
Like many other sufferers of diabetes across the country, Mayra was comforted by the news that on Thursday the US House of Representatives passed a bill that limits insulin costs to $35 per month.
However, the lifelong Republican felt “betrayed” and “let down” by her party when she found out that 193 House Republicans voted against this critical legislation, with only a dozen or so members of the GOP joining the Democrats in supporting the bill that passed 232-193.
Originally part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act that sought to reduce prices for many prescription drugs, when the act stalled in the Senate, supporters made a standalone bill to address the costs of insulin.
One of the Florida Republicans who voted against the Affordable Insulin Now Act [HR6833] is Rep. Matt Gaetz, who, in his newsletter, told his constituents that he opposed the bill because overweight people, not Big Pharma, are responsible for driving up the cost of insulin.
An Uphill Battle
The insulin price bill has moved to the Senate, where it faces a tough battle as US Senate Republicans, similar to House Republicans, equate this policy with price fixation by the government. They also claim that it fails to address price hikes by US pharmaceutical companies, and instead transfers the burden to the insurance providers and employer of the person. However, a Data for Progress survey in November 2021 found that 87% of voters support capping the cost of insulin at $35 per month.
Democrats would need to reach across the aisle to convince 10 Republicans to allow the bill to come up for a vote to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to stop a filibuster.