Last week U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) – Co-Chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus – announced their new bipartisan legislation, the Improving Needed Safeguards for Users of Lifesaving Insulin Now (INSULIN) Act, to lower the skyrocketing costs of insulin. The new, bipartisan legislation builds on Shaheen’s and Collins’ previous efforts to reduce insulin costs by increasing measures to encourage insulin manufacturers to reduce list prices, while extending patient protections that will foster competition and broader access to desperately needed insulin products.
It is estimated that one in every three seniors lives with diabetes. The disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, claiming over 100,000 lives in 2021, and is also the most expensive chronic condition in the nation, costing a total of $327 billion per year. The rising cost of insulin presents a barrier to care for a growing number of Americans living with diabetes. Out-of-pocket costs increase with list prices, and for people without insurance, the costs are untenable. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Part D enrollees spent nearly $1 billion out-of-pocket on insulin in 2019, four times the amount spent in 2007.
The bill would place a $35 monthly cap on the cost of insulin for patients with private insurance as well as those enrolled in Medicare, though it would not afford the same protections to the uninsured. The bill also seeks to make insulin more accessible by cracking down on previous authorization requirements that can force patients to jump through hurdles to get insurers to help pay for medications.
The legislation further aims to reduce the overall price of insulin, not just how much patients pay for it. The senators are targeting discounts that drug companies provide to insurers and middlemen that have been accused of driving up the costs of drugs at the point of sale.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’ll bring the bipartisan measure capping the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 per month to the Senate floor soon for a vote.
So far, the only Republican to announce support is Collins, well short of the 10 GOP votes that Democrats will need to avert a filibuster and pass the measure using the normal legislative process.
Majority Leader Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are also discussing capping insulin costs in a partisan budget bill that would require just 50 Democrats to pass the Senate. That bill would block insurers and pharmaceutical benefit managers from collecting rebates on insulin products kept at their 2021 Medicare Part D net prices—effectively allowing drug makers to keep a larger share of revenue.
If you live in a state with at least one Republican Senator, TSCL urges you to contact them and urge them to support the Collins-Shaheen Insulin bill.