By Olivia Corona
The Senate has introduced legislation requiring pharmaceutical companies carrying insulin to cut prices. The Affordable Insulin Act bill proposes that insured people who need diabetic care will no longer pay more than $35 for out-of-pocket costs through their private company; the bill also extends to the uninsured. This legislation comes after President Joseph R. Biden centered his State of the Union address around the need for more affordable pricing for life-saving drugs. With people with diabetes in mind, Biden said at the State of the Union, “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it.” Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, enacted over a year now, had included insulin to be capped at $35 but left out those uninsured and privately insured.
In the United States, about 2 million diabetics carry private insurance, and about 150,000 are without insurance. This bipartisan legislation is critical for Americans. Now, a single vial of insulin is $98.70. Those who need insulin use 2-3 vials per month. Disastrously, many Americans are paying way more than that; high-deductible insurance plans typically cost patients $1,000 a month for insulin. The steep prices have begun to burden lower and middle-class families with the decision to take smaller doses and even skip them altogether. Insulin is critical for people with diabetes to regulate their blood sugar. Unfortunately, if patients decide to ration or skip insulin doses, it can result in death.
A 26-year-old man named Alec Smith from Minnesota died over a year ago. His death resulted from a complication of type-1 diabetes called ketoacidosis, occurring when the body does not receive enough insulin. Alec had just aged out of his family’s insurance plan. When he died, a month’s supply of insulin was averaging about $1,300. These outrageous prices cost Alec his life just 27 short days after being taken off his parent’s insurance plan.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Public, three pharmaceutical companies, Eli Lily, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, own 90% of the insulin production and slashed their prices to $35 for out-of-pocket insulin costs. However, bipartisan senators are still pushing this bill to ensure the prices stay affordable, and to make it a standard in the U.S. Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic senator of New Hampshire and drafter of this proposed legislation, said, “We are calling on Senate leadership to bring this bill to the floor for consideration as swiftly as possible.” If the Senate can pass this quickly, the United States can implement the Affordable Insulin Act bill by January 2024.